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article imageItaly asks EU court to quash medicines agency move to Amsterdam

By AFP     Jan 31, 2018 in World

Italy asked the EU's top court on Wednesday to overturn the bloc's decision to move the London-based European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam after Brexit, the court said.

Milan lost a tense tiebreak vote, carried out by the drawing of lots, against the Dutch city in November for the right to host the EMA, which must move when Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019.

However on Monday it was revealed that the new Amsterdam facility was still a building site and would not be ready until November 2019, prompting Italy to contemplate challenging the decision.

"Italy and the City of Milan bring actions before ECJ and GC (European Court of Justice and General Court) for annulment of EUCO (European Council) decision re. EMA move to Amsterdam after Brexit," the Luxembourg based ECJ tweeted.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who faces elections on March 4, said Rome had to do what it could to challenge the decision.

"We have to try," Gentiloni told public broadcaster Rai, adding that "the game is not over".

However, he said, "we must not have illusions, it will not be easy because there are procedures to be respected".

Italy's government said it wanted to ensure that the choice of Amsterdam as the EMA's new home was not made on incomplete grounds or because any facts were concealed -- such as when the new facilities would be ready.

"This is not a decision against Holland," Italy's European Affairs Minister Sandro Gozi said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

- Optimal functioning' -

"It is a decision taken in the interest of the health of all European citizens to ensure the continuity and optimal functioning of the agency."

Italian authorities reaffirmed on Tuesday that the country was ready to immediately welcome the EMA to Milan.

The European agency and Dutch officials on Monday had announced that construction of the new "cutting-edge, modern building" will reportedly cost 250 to 300 million euros ($310 to $370 million).

Temporary accommodation has had to be rented to enable the relocation of the EMA's 900 London-based staff to begin on January 1, 2019 and be completed by March 30, 2019 -- the day the new post-Brexit era begins.

Based since 1995 in London's bustling Canary Wharf business district, the EMA evaluates and supervises medicines for human and animal use.

It helps national authorities authorise the sale of drugs across the EU's single market, which currently comprises 28 countries and more than 500 million people.

The decision to award Amsterdam one of the most prized spoils of Britain's decision to quit the EU came down to the drawing of lots after three rounds of secret voting by the 27 EU member states without the UK failed to produce an outright winner.

Paris was awarded the right to host the European Banking Authority.

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