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LONDON (Reuters) - Rival European cities face a five-month fight to host two European regulators that will have to leave post-Brexit London, with officials setting out procedures for determining their new locations via a stepped voting system.
According to an EU paper, member states will be asked to decide on new homes for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) by October 2017.
The voting process will start with a verdict on the EMA, the larger of the two bodies, and the country selected for this body will not be able to host the banking watchdog as well.
Countries have until July 31 to submit bids for both agencies and the voting session will take place on the margins of a meeting of European affairs ministers in October, according the 18-page May 19 paper seen by Reuters.
Leading contenders to house the EMA are already jockeying for position, with Spanish Health Minister Dolors Montserrat setting out the case for Barcelona to host the agency during a visit to Brussels on Wednesday.
"Barcelona is ready to host the EMA now," she said, noting that the Spanish city had already identified a building to house the organization.
"No-one is offering a better combination of location, facilities, services and a high quality of life from both a professional and social perspective than Barcelona."
Milan, Copenhagen and Dublin are among other European cities campaigning actively to host the EMA, although in total 21 of the 27 countries that will form the EU after Britain leave have expressed some degree of interest.
The EMA employs nearly 900 staff and acts as a one-stop-shop for approving and monitoring the safety of drugs across Europe. With an annual budget of $360 million and attracting 36,000 experts a year to London for its meetings, it is a prized asset.
It executive director, Guido Rasi, fears the move may bring disruption and has called for a decision to be made on the EMA's new location as soon as possible.
The May 19 paper from European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stressed the that "the business continuity of the two agencies is vital and must be ensured".
The EBA, whose 160 London employees write and coordinate banking rules across the EU, is being courted by cities including Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and Vienna.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler. Editing by Jane Merriman