EU beauty pageant

Cities vie to host agen­cies de­part­ing UK

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS - BY LORNE COOK

It hasn’t taken long. Five months af­ter Bri­tain for­mally an­nounced it was leav­ing the Euro­pean Union its part­ners are al­ready pick­ing over the spoils.

Twenty-three cities are vy­ing to host the EU’s bank­ing and medicines agen­cies, which are based in Lon­don but must find new homes be­fore Bri­tain leaves the EU at the end of March 2019.

Ahead of the de­ci­sion this fall, to be made by se­cret vote, the cities are vaunt­ing their qual­i­ties and perks - from iconic of­fice build­ings to free mu­seum passes for agency staff - in a highly-com­pet­i­tive process rem­i­nis­cent of a beauty pageant.

The Euro­pean Bank­ing Author­ity, which has around 180 staff, mon­i­tors the reg­u­la­tion and su­per­vi­sion of Europe’s bank­ing sec­tor. It as­sesses weak­nesses in the sec­tor through risk as­sess­ment re­ports and EU-wide bank stress tests. The Euro­pean Medicines Agency is re­spon­si­ble for the sci­en­tific eval­u­a­tion, su­per­vi­sion and safety mon­i­tor­ing of medicines in the EU. The EMA, which has around 890 staff, hosts more than 500 sci­en­tific meet­ings ev­ery year, at­tract­ing about 36,000 ex­perts.

Be­yond the pres­tige, host­ing EU agen­cies helps boost lo­cal economies and spur de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion they are based by cre­at­ing jobs and draw­ing in­vest­ment to pro­vide ser­vices for the hun­dreds of staff that move with them.

The host must have its HQ up and run­ning by the time Bri­tain leaves. Its lo­ca­tion must be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and close to trans­port net­works and the agency must be able to con­tinue its busi­ness seam­lessly. Ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties for agency staff chil­dren must be avail­able. Staff fam­i­lies should have easy ac­cess to job mar­kets, so­cial se­cu­rity and med­i­cal care. Lastly, the EU wants its agen­cies to be spread around the bloc in a ge­o­graph­i­cally bal­anced way.

In their ap­pli­ca­tions, pub­lished this week, the cities each flaunt their best qual­i­ties.

Frank­furt boasts of the fact it is al­ready home to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and is the busi­ness cap­i­tal of the EU’s eco­nomic pow­er­house, Ger­many. Of­fice space is cheap and ple 0nti­ful and it’s of­fer­ing the Westhafen Tower, a new circular sky­scraper. The mayor notes that the nearby Rhine vine­yards are per­fect for day trips.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron wrote a per­sonal ap­peal in Paris’s ap­pli­ca­tion, of­fer­ing 1.5 mil­lion eu­ros to cover the costs of re­lo­cat­ing the bank­ing agency and ar­gu­ing that a move to the French cap­i­tal would be the least dis­rup­tive for staff fam­i­lies. Prague, the Czech cap­i­tal, is of­fer­ing to pay the agency’s rent for five years, and pro­vide ben­e­fits for staff like lan­guage cour­ses, the use of sports fa­cil­i­ties and free ac­cess to mu­se­ums.

Italy wants to host the medicines agency in a 31-storey sky­scraper, the iconic Pirelli build­ing in cen­tral Mi­lan. The first year would be rent-free. In a con­cise four-page ap­pli­ca­tion - some cities have lav­ish brochures, oth­ers videos - Bul­garia un­der­lines that it is one of the rare mem­ber states not to host an agency. Croa­tia is of­fer­ing the Sky Of­fice build­ing in Za­greb, which it claims is Europe’s cheap­est city in the bloc’s safest coun­try. Greece of­fers to lodge the medicines agency in Athens’ Kera­nis Build­ing - a for­mer cig­a­rette fac­tory.

Based on the ap­pli­ca­tions and the pref­er­ences raised by agency staff, the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive Com­mis­sion will make pub­lic its as­sess­ment and rec­om­men­da­tions on Sept. 30. Bri­tain’s 27 EU part­ner na­tions will de­bate the ap­pli­ca­tions in Oc­to­ber and vote for the win­ners in a se­cret bal­lot in Novem­ber. The vote will take place in rounds. Coun­tries will award three points to their pre­ferred can­di­date, two points to their sec­ond pref­er­ence, and one to their third. The aim is to have a win­ner that re­ceives three points from at least 14 coun­tries. If no win­ner is found, the top three cities take part in a runoff. No city may host both agen­cies.

AP PHOTO/MICHAEL PROBST

New circular sky­scraper The Westhafen Tower in Frank­furt, Ger­many, on Thurs­day, where of­fice space is cheap and plen­ti­ful. Five months af­ter Bri­tain for­mally an­nounced it was leav­ing the Euro­pean Union, its part­ners in 23 cities across the bloc are bid­ding to host Europe’s bank­ing and medicines agen­cies, which are cur­rently based in Lon­don but need to find new homes be­fore Brexit in March 2019.

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