Croatia will nominate Zagreb for possible future seat of the major EU institution.
After Great Britain decided to leave the European Union, a major battle has begun among other member states about where the headquarters of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be located. Its current headquarters is in London, reports Lider on May 5, 2017.
The Ministry of State Property and the City of Zagreb have joined forces to achieve that goal. They are preparing a project to bring EMA to Croatia, to a location which has been neglected for several decades – the never completed complex of the University Hospital. The latest meeting on the topic took place last Friday. Although there are still no specific decisions, they have started searching for lobbyists who will try to convince the EU. Also, a SWOT analysis will be prepared to highlight all the advantages of Zagreb in comparison with other European cities.
“People from the city authorities have contacted me to help them in connection with the EMA criteria. I see there are some activities, but I do not have any official confirmation. The EMA brings a lot of money to the host country and is one of the major European institutions.” says Croatia’s Member of European Parliament Biljana Borzan, who is also the European Parliament’s representative for relations with the EMA. However, about 20 other EU states are also interested in the agency, and they will all invest a lot of money and efforts in order to succeed.
“As the European Parliament’s representative, I have been contacted by many countries, which have already formed teams and analysed all the criteria. Zagreb has only started doing it now. For example, Sweden has a Minister whose only job is to bring the EMA headquarters to Stockholm. On the other hand, I have received a call from the local authorities in Zagreb, but not from state institutions.” says Borzan, adding that the Croatian government should get involved. Even if it is not successful, the lobbying might be beneficial for getting some other agency in the future.
The EMA is a mega-agency which could transform the city and the whole country. Its annual budget is around 300 million euros, of which about 20 million is used for the rental of office space. It has between 850 and 900 employees, including about 60 local staff. Scientists and experts working for and with the agency annually bring local hotels about 370,000 overnight stays, which would increase the total number of overnights in Zagreb by 18 percent.
Given that the agency currently employs around 850 people, they will probably move with the agency. So, there are hundreds of people who would need a place to stay in Zagreb. “In the first poll, around 30 percent of employees said they would move with the agency. In the second poll, the number increased to about 50 percent, which means that they have accepted the possibility. Staff like security guards and cleaners are provided by the host country.” said Borzan.
The issue is how realistic it is for Croatia to get its hands on the agency. “The effort requires a major investment. It is not sure whether or not the city and the state could finance it. But, in the long term, it is definitely financially viable.” added Borzan.
The EMA demands that the host city must have good airline links with at least all EU capitals, which Croatia currently does not have. “But, we are in a good position geographically, since we are in the centre of Europe and we’re easily accessible. The EMA also demands that the host city must have a strong university and good sector of small and medium-sized enterprises as promoters of innovations in pharmacology. Zagreb University is good, but it is not at the very top. The business sector is not at a particularly impressive level, especially if we compare it to London.” said Borzan. On the other hand, the advantage is that Croatia does not have any other EU agency. “The decision will be a political one, while taking into account other elements.” concluded Borzan.
It is now up to the politicians to realise the importance of this opportunity and launch the process and the lobbying.