Italians up in arms over EMA relocation

ROME – Italian Prime Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, has intervened in the debate over the location of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), urging the European Union to reconsider Milan's bid.

 The intervention comes in the wake of Milan’s failure to win the bidding process for the new location of the EMA, previously located in London but required in the Brexit negotiations to move elsewhere by March 2019.

 Last year, the EU announced that Amsterdam’s bid had been successful. However, the city made clear to the EU that the building intended for the EMA would not be ready until later in 2019.

 The city announced on Monday, that it had located a temporary space near Sloterdijk station to house the agency while building work was completed, but the Italian government is upset that this reneges on Amsterdam’s pledge to site the agency near to where the new building is being contructed.

 Gentiloni has taken the issue to both the EU Parliament and the Court of Justice in the hope of reopening the bidding process, or temporarily moving the agency to Milan.

 The Italian Prime Minister, speaking on Tuesday, stated that “we are trying, knowing that the EMA is very important, in the interest of the health of all citizens.”

 “There was a race between 27 countries, we made a very good impression because we arrived first, and then we lost the draw but then it emerged that there was incomplete information in the Amsterdam dossier.”

 “We have asked the Court of Justice and the EU Parliament to assess,” before adding that the “item is not closed but we must have no illusions that it is easy to reopen it because there were procedures to be followed.”

 It follows the previous comments from the Italian chief of EMA, Guido Rasi, who described the temporary solution as “sub-optimal.”

 But the issue is also important in the context of the national election campaign, with Italian prestige seen to be under threat by the failure to win the bidding process. At present, 890 EMA employees work out of a Milan office that is set to close when the agency moves to the Netherlands.  

 On Tuesday night, a skyscraper in Milan was illuminated with the words “EMA to Milan.” Nonetheless, the EU commission insists that the decision ultimately rests with the 27 member states.