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Milan’s decision to appeal the EMA HQ relocation explained

Published on 04/06/18 at 10:49am

The decision to award the EMA headquarters to Amsterdam was a contentious one, not least because the vote had to be made by drawing names from a hat after an even-split between Milan and the Dutch capital.

The former city was left unhappy by the conclusion of the process and Pharmafocus caught up with Diana Bracco, CEO of the Bracco Group, to find out how Milan plans to pursue its appeal of the result.

Why has Milan chosen to appeal the decision to award the EMA headquarters to Amsterdam?

The city of Milan decided to appeal the decision for several important reasons, the most vital being the necessity to ensure the business continuity of the Agency, which holds an essential function in protecting the health of millions of European citizens.

EMA’s operational continuity is at risk of being interrupted by any delay in the availability of the Vivaldi building proposed by the Dutch authorities, currently scheduled for 15 November 2019, while the EMA has to move out of London by the end of March 2019. There are already serious concerns around the availability of critical conference facilities essential in enabling the EMA to assess new drug applications, despite these being promised to be ready by 1 April 2019, the first working day after Brexit.

The lack of transparency around the procedure of drawing lots and around the Dutch bid, whose terms have been modified after the voting, were also important grounds of the appeal.

Do you believe that it was a mistake to award the Agency to Amsterdam, given the difficulties it seems to be having in meeting its obligations to host it?

I believe the crucial point is now to closely monitor the relocation process, particularly in relation to Amsterdam’s capability to meet the deadlines in order to guarantee the business continuity of the Agency. Additionally, given the importance of the Agency in protecting public and animal health in Europe, the European Parliament should start working on an alternative solution, capable of ensuring all aspects necessary to the functioning of the EMA.

We are asking for the European Parliament to effectively monitor the relocation process, in particular regarding planned schedules, in order to ensure the operational continuity of the Agency. Furthermore, it is necessary to ascertain the real costs of the EMA’s relocation to Amsterdam and keep the trialogue open, pending the decision on the merits of the appeal, which is now before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Is Milan prepared, should circumstances change, to maintain its offer to host the Agency and why would the city be a suitable location?

Absolutely. Milan’s offer is unchanged and Mayor Sala has recently confirmed the city’s indisputable willingness and ability to host the EMA within the provided times, thus ensuring the Agency relocation and business continuity.

One of the major strengths of Milan’s bid was the superbly located, state-owned building, the Pirellone, which is readily available to easily accommodate EMA’s staff and its specific needs. The Pirellone offers adequate and flexible spaces to be rapidly adapted in line with the Agency’s requirements and is conveniently located in the heart of the city, which ensures premium connection and hospitality services. Moreover, the city can offer a comprehensive network of international schools and universities, as well as an extensive network of public and private research institutions.

Let’s not forget that, as a demonstration of the quality of Milan’s bid, the city obtained the highest number of votes from fellow member-states both in the first and second voting sessions.

In his statement, Giuseppe Sala stated that there had been “blatant violations of the rules of transparency” in the process – could you explain in more detail what he meant by this?

We believe that the evaluation and decision procedure on 20 November 2017 was not transparent and meritocratic, despite it being a crucial decision which should have been taken in the interest of all European citizens.

The closed-doors drawing of lots which took place after the third round of voting and resulted in a tie between Milan and Amsterdam was completely lacking in transparency: all ballots were immediately destroyed without any of the votes being registered in the minutes of the meeting. Moreover, the listening room, initially available in the morning, was not turned on during the voting and the drawing, thus limiting the verifiability of the followed procedure.

Mayor Sala wanted the European Parliament and European citizens to know what happened that day and to be aware of the risks that might stem from this decision. We believe transparency to be of the utmost importance, especially in European bids, and even more so at a time of growing skepticism towards European institutions.

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