The European Council on Monday voted to move the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) headquarters and nearly 900 staffers from London to Amsterdam – a move decided in a runoff. The transition is expected to begin tomorrow and finish 30 March 2019.
The decision was made by closed ballot votes from each EU member state and is the result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The decision followed bids put forth by 19 cities in the EU to be the new host.
"Amsterdam ticks many of our boxes ... It offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs. I am very grateful that the Member States took into account our requirements for business continuity and gave priority to the protection of public and animal health," EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi said in a statement.
Milan (with 25 votes), Copenhagen and Amsterdam (with 20 votes each) advanced out of the first round of voting, according to those watching from Brussels (Bratislava had 15 votes and Barcelona had 12 votes, finishing just outside the top three).
Milan (with 12 votes) and Amsterdam (with 9 votes) then proceeded into the third round of voting.
In the final round of voting, Milan and Amsterdam both tied with 13 votes each, sending the final vote to a drawing of lots, which Amsterdam won (see Amsterdam's bid here).
The final tally for Amsterdam follows an underlying current of horse-trading among diplomats, and though EMA staff had no say in the decision, Politico reported on Monday that applause broke out at the current London headquarters when the final three cities were announced. A survey of employees rated Amsterdam, Barcelona and Vienna as the top choices, while Warsaw, Poland, Bucharest, Romania, and Sofia, Bulgaria were rated the lowest. EMA warned in the months leading up to the vote that more than 80% of its employees could leave the agency if one of the lower-rated cities is chosen.
"For certain locations staff retention rates could be significantly less than 30%. This would mean that the Agency is no longer able to function and, as there is no backup, this would have important consequences for public health in the EU," EMA said in September.
And though the headquarters move has now been decided, how the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will interact with EMA moving forward remains to be understood.
Relocation of the UK-based EU agencies