A delegation from the European Parliament will investigate the decision to move the European Medicines Agency (EMA) from London to Amsterdam following an Italian-led appeal.
The EMA is responsible for determining the safety and efficacy of drugs, licensing them for marketing, and monitoring adverse reactions. It is one of two EU agencies currently based in London that will need to be moved once the UK withdraws from the bloc.
Amsterdam won the bid to host the EMA after a tiebreaker with Milan last November. However, preparations for the agency’s move have not gone as smoothly as expected. In December, Dutch officials said that the new EMA office building might not be ready in time for the agency’s relocation in March 2019. A month later, EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi said the temporary building that will accommodate staff until the permanent one is ready is “not optimal.”
The news prompted Italian MEP Giovanni La Via, who will lead the Parliament’s delegation, to ask the Dutch ambassador to organise an inspection. Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, also raised concerns over the preparations in Amsterdam.
Last month, Sala said that Italy would lodge an appeal against the decision to relocate the EMA to Amsterdam, according to The Parliament Magazine. Sala said he told Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni this was the moment to be “aggressive.”
“This situation risks becoming a bit ridiculous,” Sala said. “First they invent this [procedure of drawing] lots, and then the Dutch start saying they are not ready, then they are giving a venue that is only half [of the agency’s current space]. It’s not a good moment for Europe.”
Three Italian MEPs – Paolo De Castro, Patrizia Toia, and Elisabetta Gardini – decided to formally challenge the decision to relocate the EMA to Amsterdam, saying the city lacks the necessary requirements to host the agency within agreed deadlines. EMA has said it needs a fully operational building by 1 January 2019.
European Parliament leaders approved the investigation on Friday, according to Dutch public broadcaster NOS. A European Commission spokesperson said it had made the choice “to provide legal certainty and clarity, ensuring that both agencies can continue to function smoothly and without disruption beyond March 2019.”
As part of their fact-finding mission, members of the delegation will visit both the temporary location and future headquarters for EMA next week.
Carlo Corazza, spokesperson for Parliament President Antonio Tajani, expressed doubt over Italy’s hopes to become EMA’s new home. “Theoretically, it is possible to change the location, but I don’t think that will happen,” he said.
Sala admitted the chances of overturning the decision to move EMA to Amsterdam are “not very high, but we need to try it.”
The delegation will report its findings to the European Parliament environment committee in March. In order for the decision to be overturned, the committee must then formally agree to EMA’s relocation.
If the decision is upheld, Amsterdam will benefit from around 36,000 visitors to the 900-staff agency each year, which is expected to have a particularly positive impact on restaurants and hotels.