BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union ministers pick a new home on Monday for the European Medicines Agency (EMA), in a race for jobs, prestige and business euros that has pitted neighbours against each other across the continent.
The EMA and the smaller European Banking Authority (EBA) are set to leave London, in what Estonia’s EU minister Matti Maasikas called “a sad reminder of the concrete consequences of Brexit” ahead of the vote that he will chair. Estonia holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
After Malta withdrew late on Friday, 18 EU cities are competing to host the EMA. A further eight cities want to host the EBA — including four which are bidding for both.
The two winners — whichever country wins the EMA will drop out of the running for the EBA — will be picked on Monday in a series of votes so complex that it is hard to predict the result.
Italian EU Minister Sandro Gozzi said Milan was a good candidate but added that it was “impossible to say” how the voting would go.
Despite the rivalry between states, there have been some signs of regional solidarity. For example, Italy has been counting on support from its southern EU peers. And Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra talked up Amsterdam and his Belgian colleague also said that would make a good pick — though Brussels is itself in the running for both agencies.
Their Czech counterpart Ales Chmelar said Prague, which is runing to host the EBA, expected at least one of the two bodies to relocate to less-developped, ex-communist eastern Europe where Bratislava is also a strong contender for the EMA.
Despite fierce competition, the 27 EU states - minus Britain - are also keen to avoid any protracted and bruising dispute over the matter as they see preserving unity as essential in facing Brexit, the biggest setback in the post-World War Two history of European integration.
Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019.
Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Gareth Jones