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Italy to fight Netherlands for EU medicines agency

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Italy to fight Netherlands for EU medicines agency
The EMA's current headquarters in London. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP
11:21 CET+01:00
The Italian government plans to ask EU authorities to reconsider their decision to move the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Amsterdam, the city narrowly picked over Milan to rehouse the body when it leaves London after Brexit.

News that the Dutch site will not be ready by the time the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in March 2019 has rekindled Italy's hopes of winning the drug agency's headquarters.

According to Mayor of Milan Beppe Sala, Italy plans to lodge an official appeal on Tuesday.

"We have to put the matter before the European Commission," tweeted the Italian health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, on Monday. "Milan was ready and operational, it would be better to make a decision on technical factors than to rely on chance."

Milan controversially lost out to Amsterdam when the two cities tied in a vote by EU foreign ministers in November. Delegates eventually resorted to pulling a name out of a bowl at random to decide the winner. 

The EMA's Italian-born executive director, Guido Rasi, said on Monday that the agency would be obliged to move its staff into a temporary headquarters in Amsterdam while work continues on its new offices, a solution that he said would leave the agency with half the space it currently occupies in London.

Mayor Sala said that Amsterdam had "evident" problems rehousing the EMA and that he was in touch with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni "to assess all possible initiatives". 

"I called Gentiloni, I told him that now's the time to be aggressive and lodge an appeal," Sala told RTL radio on Tuesday, arguing that the problems with the premises in Amsterdam could put Europeans' health at risk. He said that Italy would make its appeal "today". 

Italy's northern fashion capital beat a dozen other European cities to the final, winning the most votes in the first and second rounds. 

A total of 19 countries bid to host the EMA, which is currently headquartered in London's Canary Wharf with a staff of around 900 people. Competition was fierce, with the new EMA headquarters likely to attract medical and pharmaceutical companies from across the globe in their wake.

According to some estimates, the agency is likely to generate its new home an extra €1.7 billion per year.  

In a staff survey in September, Amsterdam was the most popular choice for the new premises among the EMA's employees, while Milan ranked fourth.

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