Brexit : New headquarters for the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority
Following voting by secret ballot on 20 November 2017, the EU’s 27 European affairs ministers chose Amsterdam to welcome the headquarters for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and Paris for the European Banking Authority (EBA).
The results of voting surprised everyone. If Lille’s submission to welcome the EMA’s headquarters was considered as one of the more serious, Paris seemed to have little chance up against Frankfurt, notably, to win that of the EBA.
- A quick and easy selection procedure
As the issue was sensitive and attracted a great deal of attention, it was important that the decision process was defined as precisely as possible, and that it was both fair and transparent, in order to maintain the unity displayed by the 27 in response to Brexit, and to limit internal divisions.
The procedure was decided on 22 June 2017 by the 27 member States remaining post-Brexit and was based on the organization of a call for proposals by the interested cities which had until 31 July 2017 to submit their candidature.
The Commission then assessed the submitted offers based on 6 criteria agreed by the 27 Member States. This assessment, intended to enlighten the political discussion in the margins of the session of the General Affairs Council of 17 October as well as the decision made on 20 November, was required to be objective, without the weighting of criteria.
Then there were successive voting rounds by allocation of points and a secret ballot.
Two rounds of voting took place on 20 November, the first for the EMA, the second for the EBA, it being specified that the two European agencies could not be located in the same country.
- The importance of the business continuity criteria
On publication of its assessment of the candidates according to 6 criteria agreed to by the 27 EU leaders, the Commission carefully avoided establishing a ranking.
It nevertheless insisted on the elements likely to ensure the continuity of the agencies’ activities during the relocation phase and in the short term.
For the EBA, continuity meant in particular the accessibility in a minimum time from London and numerous other capitals.
This criterion was met for the three cities in contention at the end of the first round of voting – Paris, Frankfurt and Dublin. After the elimination of Frankfurt, where the European Central Bank is already located, it was finally in a drawing of lots that Paris beat Dublin.
As regards the EMA, continuity meant, above all, an ability to keep the 900 employees of the agency (compared to only 190 for the EBA).
The EMA had in fact raised the alarm at the end of the survey undertaken with staff that showed that the staff retention rate of the agency could vary between more than 80% and less than 30% for the less attractive cities.
The three cities in contention following the first round of voting on 20 November - Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Milan, were included in the group of the cities considered the most attractive, with an average retention rate of 65%.
After the elimination of Copenhagen, it was by drawing lots that Amsterdam beat Milan. As luck would have it Amsterdam had been the popular choice of the EMA’s employees, with a retention rate of 81%.
With a combination of objective criteria, political negotiations and luck, the final outcome ended the fierce battle between the 23 candidate cities in conditions which allowed little discussion. To that extent we can consider, with Donald Tusk, “that the real winner of [the] vote is EU27”.