The Dutch government last Monday said new office of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam will not be ready before November 2019, and EMA executive director Guido Rasi said that the temporary office the Dutch authorities have arranged was “not ideal”.
The EMA relocation from London to the Dutch capital was the result of months-long lobbying and a challenge between 19 cities, which was finally decided in a finale by a drawing of a lot. When presenting the Dutch bid in July 2017, the previous minister of Health, Edith Schippers, said that the EMA’s new office building, which is being built from scratch, would be “open in april 2019”, one month after Brexit.
She added that “of course we will have a period of transition” and that “maybe a part of the staff will be temporarily housed only for a part.” Moreover, the official bid sent to the member states said that 1 April 2019 was the delivery date only for “the conference centre, as well as some of the workplaces”.
The new expected opening of the office is, instead, nine months after Brexit.
Then deputy mayor of Amsterdam, Kasja Ollongren – now minister for interior affairs – said at the time that if the building was not ready on time, some staff could be temporarily housed in a building next door. Nevertheless, according to EMA chief Rasi the initially proposed temporary office was not good enough. “During the past few weeks, we have had extensive discussions on the selection of a temporary building,” he told press on Monday.
The temporary office would be located in the Sloterdijk area of Amsterdam, which is in the northeast of the city. The final building will be located in the south of the city.
However, Amsterdam is a comparatively small European city, and the two locations are only some nine kilometres apart.
Rasi noted that in the temporary building, staff will have only half the space they have now. “But, let us be clear, we are working against extremely tight deadlines,” he said.
“On 1 January 2019 we need a fully operational building in order to move our staff gradually from London to Amsterdam before 30 March 2019, when the UK withdraws from the EU. That means that even if these temporary premises are not ideal, they are the best option under the current time restrictions,” he noted.
The relocation will also involve the moving of several hundreds of EMA staff – how many of the 900 will stay with the agency is not yet known.
But minister for medical care Bruno Bruins announced on Monday that a team aimed at helping staff find schools for their children and a place to live, would receive €2.5m.
EMA staff, therefore, have no guarantee that they will actually end up living in Amsterdam. The city is very popular and finding a house or apartment can be challenging.
Housing market expert Paul de Vries, of the Dutch Cadastre, Land Registry and Mapping Agency, told this website that if he was an EMA employee, he would start his search for a house immediately.
“In particular if you want to live in Amsterdam, you have to start informing yourself today,” he said. But he was not too worried that the EMA staff would be able to find a place to live outside of Amsterdam, in a neighbouring city.
“Amsterdam is a neighbourhood compared to London,” De Vries added. The Amsterdam local government is also not expecting all EMA staff to live in Amsterdam.
It was asked by a local left-wing council member how the influx of EMA staff will influence the difficulty for local people to find housing. The Amsterdam government replied that it would “promote” that staff moves to the entire metropolitan region, as well as to cities like Leiden, The Hague, Utrecht, and Alkmaar.
This situation is clearly a good assist to the Italian competitor, Milan: Italy, in fact, has just appealed the decision of the EMA relocation before the European Court of Justice in order to obtain its relocation in Milan instead.