Helsinki says it’d offer strategic benefits, high quality of life to EMA

Finland is proposing that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) be re-located to an office complex that is under construction in Vallila, Helsinki. The construction site was pictured on Monday, 31 July, 2017.

Finland on Monday submitted a formal application to re-locate the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Helsinki.

“Re-locating the European Medicines Agency to Helsinki would guarantee a smooth transition for the operations and promote the international competitiveness of Finland,” Jan Vapaavuori, the Mayor of Helsinki, commented in a press release .

The EMA will be re-located from London due to the United Kingdom’s impending withdrawal from the European Union. Around two dozen member states were understood to be interested in hosting the agency, its staff of nearly 900 highly-skilled public officials and their families.

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The deadline for applications was on Monday, 31 July, 2017.

Helsinki is already the location of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), a fact that according to the application would enable the two agencies to pool their expertise and resources to create a genuine centre of excellence and, consequently, enhance the global competitiveness of the European Union.

“The Helsinki region is already one of the best places in Europe for health care and health technology research, development and businesses,” said Vapaavuori.

The City of Helsinki and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on Monday revealed that they have drawn up a detailed roadmap for ensuring a smooth and cost-effective re-location of the agency and its operations to Helsinki.

“The EU, as well as the management and personnel of the medicines agency, can have confidence in that everything will function as intended and that the transition from London to Helsinki will be smooth,” assured Vapaavuori.

Helsinki also stands out among the several candidates to host the agency due to the quality of life it offers to its residents, according to the application. The city, for example, has a high-quality schooling system with a fair share of international schools and is committed to developing its English-language daycare and schooling options.

The application also draws attention to the positive experiences of the roughly 500 people employed by the ECHA in Helsinki.

“The ECHA has the lowest staff turnover of all EU institutions. People who come to Helsinki do not want to leave. It is easy to combine work and free time in Helsinki,” argued Marja-Leena Rinkineva, the director of economic development at the City of Helsinki.

The City of Helsinki, she revealed, has conducted a preliminary study of the available properties and identified a total of four properties meeting the requirements of the EMA. One of the properties is a four-building, six-floor office complex that is under construction at the corner of Sturenkatu and Aleksis Kiven Katu in Vallila, Helsinki.

No details of the three other properties are provided in the application.

Rinkineva believes it is vital to be able to propose a property that is already under construction as the headquarters of the EMA.

“We wanted to use one example to demonstrate how the re-location of the agency would take place. We of course also carried out a quick assessment to identify other sites that’d allow the re-location to take place in a similar way,” she explained to Helsingin Sanomat on Monday .“What's crucial now is to get the agency interested in Helsinki, and the easiest way to do that is by using a single site.”

Vapaavuori also commended the government for its willingness to co-operate on the application process that was carried out under considerabletime constraints. He had previously expressed his exasperation with the government’s dilly dallying on the issue.

The EU General Affairs Council will make a decision on the re-location of the EMA on 20 November, 2017.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Photo: Irene Stachon – Lehtikuva

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