EMA unveils staffers' preferences for agency move: Amsterdam gets a yes, Warsaw a no

Officials in Europe are set to decide on the European Medicines Agency's new location in November.

Would you want to live in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Milan or Vienna? Staffers of the European Medicines Agency would—or at least those are their top picks for an agency move after Brexit. Lots of other cities are in the mix, but the head of the EMA warns that the wrong pick would lead to a mass exit of employees.

Each of the preferred options would allow the agency to keep 65% or more of its staff, according to EMA documents posted on Tuesday, helping with agency continuity during a difficult period as it leaves London. Staff aren't as fond of a potential move to Athens, Bratislava, Bucharest, Helsinki, Malta, Sofia, Warsaw or Zagreb. The agency warned it wouldn't even be able to retain 30% of its employee base if it moves to any of those locations. 

In comments on the potential facilities, EMA officials noted that Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Milan met agency requirements, with those buildings only raising limited concerns. Vienna had more serious problems such as security, IT and conferencing technology.

As the central drugs authority for the European Union, EMA provides a critical service, and officials are hoping to minimize the imminent negative effects of the relocation. In a Reuters interview, Executive Director Guido Rasi warned that a move to the wrong city could have devastating consequences for the agency, as a mass staff exodus could leave the agency unable to operate. 

Rasi said potential staff losses are "much worse than anticipated," likely because employees have children in London schools and working spouses in the city. 

European Union member states are set to vote on the move in November. But as Reuters notes, states could be inclined to vote in a way that would spread agencies around the bloc. Each of the five sites favored by EMA staff already has an EU agency, the news service notes. 

In their bids to win the EMA, member states have offered language lessons, childcare and local scenery as they seek to attract an agency that employs about 900 experts and could bring an economic lift worth an estimated €1 billion.