Italy continues protest against EMA move to Amsterdam

European Medicines Agency in London
The European Medicines Agency moved into 25 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London in 2014. August 30, 2013photo: Alex McGregor / Wikimedia Commons

The Italian protest against the relocation of the European Medication Agency from London to Amsterdam continued during a so-called fact-finding mission which took place in Amsterdam on Thursday.

Twelve members of European parliament were given a tour of the Spark building in Sloterdijk, the temporary home for the EMA beginning in 2019. They also went to have a look at the Zuidas, home to the city's World Train Center complex, where on November 15, 2019 the permanent building must be ready for use.

Amsterdam beat Milan for the EMA in a tiebreak vote decided by chance. The agency and its 900 staff jobs will move to Amsterdam after Milan lost a tense tiebreak vote against Amsterdam in November for the right to host the EMA, which must move its 900 staff jobs to the Netherlands because of the planned British exit from the European Union.

Italy wants Europe to reconsider, and has asked European courts to step in. Failing that, La Via suggested the EU still has a chance to withdraw its choice of the Dutch city.

I have to say that huge doubts on the proceedings remain," La Via said noting that the European committee "votes on March 12, and the plenary session will vote on March 27."

He continued, saying, "The temporary location is a good building, but the real problem is the risk of the delay of the new building construction, which means a huge amount of work."

On March 4 the Italians will go to the polls and the hot button issue is of particular interest in Italian media. Silvio Berlusconi is looking for a comeback and relies on the supposed weakness shown by the current Italian government, which lost the EMA to Amsterdam. 

After the tour in Amsterdam a press conference took place, where the Italian MEP Giovanni La Via and Dutch Minister of Public Health Hugo de Jonge spoke to the international press.

De Jonge used the opportunity to reassure European parliamentarians with firm promises. He announced that the Netherlands guaranteed that the building on the Zuidas will be ready in time, and assured that "if the establishment of EMA becomes more expensive than initially thought, it won't be on the account of the EMA, but on the Netherlands".

On the other hand, La Via used the opportunity to express his dissatisfaction with the procedure that named Amsterdam the EMA's new home. The European Parliament did not have any participation in the relocation of the EMA, because the European council appointed Amsterdam through a procedure on its own, after which the decision was submitted to the parliament, he claims. "As if as a parliament we should just sign at the cross," says La Via "We do not like that, things should be done differently next time".

De Jonge endorsed the Italian MEP's perspective, "The relocation of EMA is part of a procedural battle in Europe, we do not want to be part of it and we will stick to the promises that we have made in the bid".

Milan has asked the European Court to suspend the decision of the relocation of the EMA from London to Amsterdam. The legal service of the European Council of Ministers regarded the request as inadmissible.

​"All that matters is that we ensure the continuity of the EMA's activities. And we need to be sure that all the commitments made by the Dutch government will be fulfilled," La Via conceded, according to AFP.

"We can do it, and we will do it. We are ready to welcome the EMA," affirmed De Jonge, brushing off Amsterdam's ability to meet EMA deadlines.