Amsterdam pips Milan to be host city of European Union medical agency

Now London will lose a second European agency after Brexit

After months of lobbying from dozens of nations to bring the EMA to their cities, the European Union has voted in favour of Amsterdam as its new location.

The competition for two of the most prized spoils of Brexit came to a climax on Monday in Brussels when the remaining 27 EU states picked the new host city for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), with a vote on the EBA banking agency still in progress.

The European Medicines Authority (EMA), a key element in the continent's healthcare industry, will go to Amsterdam, which tied with favourite Milan; the European Banking Authority (EBA) will go to Paris, victor in the lucky dip over Dublin, which won some sympathy votes due to the pain Brexit is causing Ireland.

In an unusually complex procedure - even for the European Union - each country will have six points to distribute for each agency, including three to give to their first choice, two to their second and one to their third.

However, the Slovakian capital would not be a popular choice with the current EMA staff.

"We needed to draw lots in both cases", Estonian EU Affairs Minister Matti Maasikas, who chaired the meeting and in both cases made the decisive selection from a big transparent bowl.

The European Banking Authority is heading to Paris
The European Banking Authority is heading to Paris

Italian EU Minister Sandro Gozi said Milan - a clear favourite in online betting - was a good candidate for the EMA but added that it was "impossible to say" how the vote would go. He rejected, however, talk of "betrayal" among any allies who had promised Milan support before the secret ballot.

"Businesses now need certainty", said Steve Bates, CEO of Britain's BioIndustry Association.

In a process only half-jokingly compared to the Eurovision Song Contest, ministers will vote on where to relocate the European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority.

In all, 19 cities had bid for the prestige and economic boost that the arrival of the EMA's 900 staff and many offices for worldwide pharmaceuticals companies will bring.

Hosting the EMA and the smaller European Banking Authority (EBA), both now based in London, will mean jobs, business euros and prestige, so competition has been tough, though there have also been signs of regional solidarity in the contest. "Organised and getting ready for Brexit", EU summit chair Donald Tusk tweeted ahead of the vote.

Senior officials liken the process to Europe's annual TV music schlock-fest, when the victor of the Eurovision Song Contest is often determined by viewers phoning in votes for acts from like-minded neighboring states and historic allies.

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