Monday 18 December 2017

EU cities offer zoo passes and rent deals to lure Brexit bodies

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

EU nations may be keen to present a united diplomatic front in dealing with the United Kingdom and the terms of its EU departure, but they're pitting against each other to win two prized assets displaced from London because of Brexit - the European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency.

Ireland is one of six member states bidding for both institutions.

Glossy brochures boasting each city's accolades, promotional videos and, in some cases, even financial incentives are being employed to secure the coveted Brexit spoils.

Only Hungary, Slovenia, Cyprus and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia decided not to join the fray.

The European Medicines Agency is arguably the most prestigious, as it brings with it 900 staff, versus fewer than 200 with the EBA.

Read more: France to cut taxes in bid to win Brexit bank jobs for Paris

The latter, though, whose employees write and coordinate banking rules for the bloc, would be a prestigious win in itself, bringing with it visits from officials and experts for meetings and conferences.

Ireland is competing with seven other EU cities for the banking institution, namely Paris, Frankfurt, Brussels, Prague, Luxembourg, Warsaw and Vienna.

On financial incentives alone, it appears that Luxembourg might have the edge. It's offering a glitzy new-build office rent-free, and providing provisional offices in the interim at no cost also, if required.

The Czech Republic is prepared to stump up the cost of rent for five years, while Poland will pay half of the rent for a decade.

But Dublin isn't being cheap. The Government is prepared to offer up to €13.5m towards the rental costs of the body if it chooses Dublin, which it says equates to 50pc of the cost over 10 years, and up to €1m for staff-relocation expenses.

It's also laid out 15 options for office space. The application is fronted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Paris is offering just €1.5m for relocation costs, Frankfurt and Brussels has made no mention of financial handouts.

The French application is fronted by a range of heavy hitters, including President Emmanuel Macron, the minister for foreign affairs, the minister for the economy, the President of the Ile-de-France Regional Council, the mayor of Paris and the honorary governor of the Bank of France, among others.

Frankfurt - which has already been tipped, along with Paris, as a main contender - appears to be basing its candidature on the fact that it's already a financial hub, playing host to the European Central Bank and insurance supervision institution. Brussels is also talking up its well established EU institutional offering.

Unusual boasts and sweeteners include an offer from the Czech Republic to EBA staff of unlimited free access to a range of museums and national monuments, as well as Prague Zoo, and the city's botanical garden.

Vienna boasts that 10,000 musical lovers are treated to live classical music every night, while its tap water is "highest quality mountain spring water".

"Vienna is also the only major capital with a significant winegrowing industry, with 660 hectares of vineyards," its brochure says. Poland even goes so far as to say that it has no indigenous terrorist groups. The European Commission will assess the candidates by September but the decision rests with EU leaders who will try to reach a consensus deal at their next summit in October. A final decision is expected a month later.

Irish Independent

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