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article imageRace to move EU medicines agency to Amsterdam before Brexit

By AFP     Jan 29, 2018 in Health

Dutch officials and the head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) sought Monday to ally any jitters among the agency's 900 London-based staff who will move to Amsterdam due to Brexit.

Construction of the EMA's "cutting-edge, modern building" will reportedly cost 250 to 300 million euros, but it is not scheduled to be ready until November 2019. Indeed Monday, it was still a building site.

Instead, temporary accommodation has been rented to enable the relocation of the EMA's scientists and researchers to start from January 1, 2019 and be completed by March 30, 2019 -- the day the new post-Brexit era begins.

"The physical relocation of the EMA to a new host country is the single biggest challenge the EMA has ever had to deal with since its establishment," admitted its executive director Guido Rasi.

He is the man charged with overseeing the complex move and he acknowledged to reporters the job was "made even more challenging by the ambitious timeline".

Based since 1995 in London's now 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 temporary HQ will only have "half the space" of the London offices, Rasi said, but added it was worth waiting for the new "cutting-edge, modern building" which would meet "our needs for decades to come".

The "continuity of EMA's important work is crucial for millions of patients in Europe," stressed Dutch minister for medical care Bruno Bruins.

- 'Fully committed' -

After beating off stiff competition from 15 other cities, Dutch authorities have embarked on a charm offensive to help find housing and schools for arriving EMA staff.

"We are fully committed to make your relocation as smooth as possible," said Bruins.

International schools based in The Netherlands are already visiting London to talk to staff, while a new help-desk has been set up in Amsterdam which will begin providing one-on-one support, including helping partners to find jobs.

Amsterdam's deputy mayor, Udo Kock, acknowledged housing in the crowded canal city was already "tight", but suggested some of the staff might be tempted to live outside the centre.

Rasi told AFP he "admired the resilience" of his staff adding they were all extremely focused on the move.

While he suggested Monday that all 900 staff said they would be prepared to move, in November he said the relocation could lead to the loss of 200 people.

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