EMA Head Comments on Agency Relocation to Amsterdam in Wake of Brexit

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) Executive Director Guido Rasi commented on the agency’s relocation of the EMA from London to Amsterdam, the Netherlands in the wake of the decision of the UK to exit the European Union (EU) (i.e., Brexit). In November 2017, the EU member states selected Amsterdam as the new host city of the EMA, which plans to take up operations by March 30, 2019, at the latest, which is in line with the UK’s withdrawal date from the EU.

“…[T]he physical relocation of EMA to a new host country is the single biggest challenge EMA has ever had to deal with since its establishment,” said Rasi in an agency statement. “Moving a large organization such as EMA to a new location is a complex undertaking under any circumstances. It is made even more challenging by the ambitious timeline we are given: we will need to be based in Amsterdam from day one of Brexit, that is by 30 March 2019.”

He further outlined the logistical issues involved in the move. “[The] EMA’s final building in Amsterdam will not be ready by then [March 30, 2019], so we will need to first move to temporary premises in the city, and then to the final building,” Rasi said in his statement. “This double transfer will force us to invest more resources. It will prolong our ‘business continuity planning’ mode, which means that it will take us longer to go back to normal operations, where we can again carry out important public health activities beyond those imposed on us by legislation.”

Rasi said that the agency has worked with Dutch authorities to help ensure a seamless transition since November 2017. “During the past few weeks, we have had extensive discussions on the selection of a temporary building,” he said in his statement. “Both sides agreed that the initially proposed buildings were not fully fit for purpose, and that therefore, our Dutch partners had to find another option. This took longer than expected, but I am glad that we now found a solution. However, this is not an optimal solution.”

Rasi says the agency will only have half the space compared with its current premises in London. While the agency will also have to use external meeting facilities, it will still be able to host its core scientific meetings in the temporary building. This solution is expected to allow constructors to speed up the completion of the permanent building in Zuidas, Amsterdam. Zuidas is a business district in Amsterdam.

Rasi continued to stress the timeline for the agency’s new operations. “But, let us be clear, we are working against extremely tight deadlines,” he said. “On January 1, 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.”

Source: European Medicines Agency

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