Wednesday 21 August 2019

'It's gutting,' says Coveney as Paris beats Dublin for EU banking agency

Disappointment: Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Disappointment: Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sarah Collins

Dublin has narrowly lost out to Paris in the race to secure the EU's banking agency once it relocates due to Brexit.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney called the result a "stroke of luck" for the French capital, after a Eurovision-style points contest ended in a 13-13 draw between Paris and Dublin.

Paris took the prize after the two countries were forced to draw lots. Mr Coveney said the blow was "gutting", especially after Ireland's bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup was beaten by France last week.

"Of all the countries to lose out to, given what happened last week, losing to Paris is a bit difficult," Mr Coveney told reporters in Brussels. "But I think that you certainly couldn't fault our team, or our tactics, or the politics of this. No one gave Ireland a chance. We almost did it. Nobody beat us on points.

"And it took literally a stroke of luck for Paris to get the EBA [European Banking Authority] ahead of Dublin, and that is absolutely gutting for our team, but I hope they can take some satisfaction that they put it up to the big countries and almost beat them."

Paris and Dublin beat six other cities to the run-off, including Frankfurt, Brussels and Luxembourg. Dublin secured 28 first-preference points from its EU counterparts in an initial round of voting, against 34 for Paris and 32 for Frankfurt. A second round saw Dublin trump Paris, bagging 13 points to the French city's 10 and eliminating Frankfurt, which came in with only four. The final vote resulted in a 13-13 tie so lots were drawn.

The London-based EBA oversees financial supervision for the entire EU, carrying out bloc-wide bank stress tests and enforcing capital requirements.

Ireland had suggested 15 potential office blocks for the 100 or so EBA staffers in its written pitch for the agency, including the former Central Bank headquarters on Dame Street.

Earlier yesterday, the Government had dropped its bid to host the much larger European Medicines Agency (EMA), a deliberate ploy to help it land the banking regulator. It was Amsterdam that won the EMA race, wooing its 900-plus staff with promises of over 40,000 hotel rooms, brand new high-rise office space and proximity to the airport. The Dutch city beat odds-on favourite Milan and Bratislava to seize the medicines prize.

The win came after the EMA warned that public health across the bloc could be jeopardised if the agency was relocated further afield and failed to retain trained staff.

More than 23 cities were initially vying to snatch the two agencies from London - 19 had their hats in the ring for the medicines body, and eight for the banking authority.

Eastern European countries were dispirited by the news, with Bratislava, Sofia, Warsaw and Zagreb vying for the EMA, and Prague and Warsaw in for the banking authority.

Both agencies will have to complete their move from London by March 30, 2019, the day after Brexit day, giving them 16 months to prepare. A spate of lobbying and horse trading followed Britain's vote to leave the EU in June 2016, as EU governments tried to bag the lucrative Brexit spoils.

Mr Coveney said Ireland had not promised "anything irresponsible" to get as far as it did.

Irish Independent

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