Sunday 18 February 2018

Dublin hasn't yet won the hearts of EU agency staff

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Alissa de Carbonnel

Ireland is in a battle to become host city of two major EU institutions which will have to leave Britain post Brexit.

However, the European Commission has shied away from ranking which cities should be the new home of Europe's drugs regulator and banking authority, saying the decision is up to the 27 member states.

The EU executive said its assessment, published yesterday, was wholly based on the information provided by governments in their bidding war to host the two agencies, which will be forced to relocate from Britain.

"It [the assessment] respects the member states' decision that the criteria should be unweighted and does not provide a ranking or shortlist of any kind," the commission said.

Eight member states - including Ireland - applied to host a relocated European Banking Authority (EBA).

Michael D'Arcy, Minister of State for Financial Services, has argued that for the EBA, its staff and their families, moving to Dublin is the least disruptive option.

Nineteen member states - including Ireland - have bid to host the European Medical Agency (EMA). Leo Varadkar's government has offered to spend €10m to help with the relocation of staff from London to Dublin.

The Irish application to host the EMA also contained a commitment to contribute €78m toward the agency's rent and maintenance here.

However, as part of the business continuity plan, the agency sent a survey to employees asking how likely they were to move to each of the 19 candidate cities.

Amsterdam, Barcelona or Vienna were the top three choices, according to a survey of around 900 workers. The Netherlands, Spain and Austria already host one or more EU agencies.

The final say on where to move the agencies rests with EU leaders who will try to reach a deal at their next summit in three weeks' time, with a final decision a month later.

Candidate cities will be appraised based on their ability to have an office ready in time, accessibility, the quality of schools, healthcare and jobs for the families of staff, and how disruptive the move would be.

However, the EU's need to ensure business continuity could clash with another EU ambition - spreading the bloc's agencies more evenly across Europe and giving newer, eastern member states a chance to catch up.

Last Tuesday the EMA warned that it could lose more than 70pc of its staff, making it unable to function, if politicians picked an unpopular location for the London-based agency.

The EMA has said it will take at least three years to recover fully from the disruption to its operations. It sees retaining staff as key to maintaining essential services such as new drug approval and monitoring side-effects.

Sunday Independent

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