Speech by Minister Simon Harris on Dublin’s bid for the re-location of the European Medicines Agency
Minister for Health Simon Harris today launched Dublin’s bid for the re-location of the EMA (European Medicines Agency) in Brussels on the eve of the European Council tomorrow. Minister Harris also launched the official www.emadublin.ie website and bid brochure. The re-location of the EMA is an information point at the Council and it is expected the likely timelines and process will be clarified.
The Minister has meetings scheduled with 25 EU Ambassadors and Diplomats; Irish officials within the Institutions; the Belgian Health Minister, Maggie De Blok and Brussels based media.
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Ambassadors and representatives
I would like to thank you for attending this event and I hope you will accept my appreciation for your interest in our campaign to make Dublin the new home of the European Medicines Agency.
I, and the Irish Government, truly believe that Dublin represents the best and most sustainable choice for Europe and the EMA and I will explain why to you today.
As we all know, the UK’s decision to leave the EU has created many challenges. The requirement to relocate the EMA to another Member State from its established home in London is one such challenge. However, like everything related to Brexit, we as European Citizens must now rise to meet those challenges.Our discussion today is timely, on the eve of the EU Council meeting tomorrow, where the issue of the relocation of Agencies based in the UK will be raised. It is expected that the process and timeline for a decision in relation to the EMA will be clarified. The Irish Government has always said that an early decision on agency relocation is important, particularly for the EMA, to allow for an orderly transfer of operations.
As Minister for Health, I am conscious that the EMA plays a vital role in the protection of the health of over 500 million European citizens through the scientific evaluation and safety monitoring of human and veterinary medicines. The Agency is also key to maintaining the competiveness of the European pharmaceutical industry, which is worth around €260 billion annually.
The EMA is facing a number of challenges in the light of Brexit, chief among which is the likely significant loss of expert staff and disruption to its operations. The loss of expertise in particular could severely impact the vital work undertaken by the Agency.
For example, any decrease in the EMA’s ability to function as it does now would hamper the research, development, trialling and authorisation of novel medicines, as well as access for patients.
With this in mind, it is vital when considering the matter of relocation that we first and foremost agree on a sustainable solution for the Agency, for Europe and above all else, for patients.
I am absolutely convinced that relocating the EMA to Dublin is the best choice in this regard. I say this not only for Dublin or Ireland but as genuinely the best choice for Europe.
Dublin truly does have many advantages to offer the EMA:
- Firstly, I believe it will prove to be a popular location for current and future staff, thus contributing to the retention of expertise within the EMA. As I noted, the retention of expertise is a vitally important issue in the context of relocation.
- Ireland’s national medicines agency, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, already provides significant support to the EMA and this can be rapidly scaled up in the event of relocation.
- Dublin offers excellent air connectivity with many EU capitals and internationally. The airport itself is only 20 minutes from the city centre which is a significant benefit. Dublin is the only capital city in Europe with U.S pre-clearance facilities and with the EMA’s strong focus on international co-operation this is another reason why Dublin must be seen as an efficient and workable solution. In the context of the sheer number of visitors which the Agency hosts on a yearly basis, it is worth emphasising that Dublin Airport is highly rated for its positive customer experiences.
- When it comes to office accommodation and hotel accommodation, Dublin has the infrastructure to meet EMA requirements, with significant development on both fronts in the pipeline over the next 2 – 3 year period. We have identified a number of possible office solutions, two of which are detailed in our brochure, one in the North Docklands adjacent to the city centre and the second in a vibrant new commercial district at Dublin Airport. These are world class office solutions that can accommodate all EMA requirements and will be available to the EMA by 2019. Dublin is a growing city and in terms of world-leading organisations the EMA would find itself in extremely good company should it choose to relocate to Dublin.
- Dublin has an excellent reputation when it comes to ICT connectivity, again as demonstrated by the range of internationally renowned tech companies headquartered in the various hubs around the city.
- The strong life sciences sector in Ireland, which is home to many of the leading biopharmaceutical companies, presents opportunities for synergies between industry, research, and regulation.
- Dublin has the advantage of being a primarily English-speaking environment and this is helpful as English is the working language of the EMA and the pharmaceutical industry. Again this will support the ability of the Agency to retain its existing staff and their expertise. In particular, I would highlight that this will be a consideration for spouses, partners and children of many of the current EMA staff who are used to working and being educated through English. It will also ease the transition of the Agency itself as it will be able to quickly integrate with local supports, services and business.
- Dublin offers a pro-business environment with all the amenities a modern capital city has to offer. Ireland is a committed member of the European Union and we are proud to offer whole-of-government support to the EMA to ensure a successful relocation to Dublin and allow it to continue its work to protect EU citizens and their healthcare.
The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and my fellow Ministers are fully behind our bid and have at all times recognised that continuity of service is of paramount importance in the transition to a new home.
I have already said that I believe that it is in the best interests of the EMA that there is an early decision on the new location, in order to provide certainty to staff and allow sufficient time for a smooth transition. I think it is also worth remembering that we are not talking about the establishment of a new agency, but rather the relocation of an existing, well-functioning organisation which has gained a reputation for excellence within the global regulatory system over the last 20 years.
It may seem strange that I, as a politician, firmly believe that the future location of the EMA is too important to be a purely ‘political decision’. Europe must find a solution that is in the best interests of European citizens and the innovative bio-pharmaceutical industry.
We must look objectively at the issue and achieve, on behalf of European citizens, a seamless transition and business continuity. I believe that Dublin ticks every box in this respect, with geographical and cultural proximity for ease of transition, excellent air connectivity, world-class ICT services, an open and stable political system for long term surety, government commitment to the project and a significant pool of highly skilled life science professionals.
The case for Dublin is summarised in the brochure available here today.
To those of you who are also competing to host the EMA, I will say ‘good luck’. I know that other countries will put forward very strong bids. I am sure the competition will proceed in a friendly and positive manner with everyone focussed on the best outcome for the EMA, and for Europe and its citizens!