EU deputies in Amsterdam amid row over medicines agency move

Based since 1995 in London's bustling Canary Wharf business district, the EMA evaluates and supervises medicines for human and animal use

Amsterdam was under pressure Thursday as EU deputies visited the site for the new post-Brexit headquarters of the European Medicines Agency, amid concerns over the hotly-contested relocation.

"I have to say that huge doubts on the proceedings remain," Italian MEP Giovanni La Via said.

He led a group of about 12 parliamentarians to the Dutch capital to inspect the site where the new building is under construction.

Milan lost a tense tiebreak vote against Amsterdam in November for the right to host the EMA, which must move its 900 staff from London when Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019.

However, last month it was revealed its new Amsterdam home is still a building site and will not be ready until November 2019.

Italy has asked the EU's top court to annul last year's decision, which still has to be voted on at the European Parliament.

"The temporary location is a good building, but the real problem is the risk of the delay of the new building construction, which means a huge amount of work," La Via said.

All the elements would be taken into consideration when the parliamentary committee "votes on March 12, and the plenary session will vote on March 27," the Italian deputy added.

He told AFP: "We can still reject the proposal (of Amsterdam) and reopen the procedure."

But he insisted it wasn't "a football game between Italy and the Netherlands".

"All that matters is that we ensure the continuity of the EMA's activities. And we need to be sure that all the commitments made by the Dutch government will be fulfilled," La Via added.

Temporary accommodation has been rented in Amsterdam to enable the EMA's relocation to begin on January 1, 2019, and be completed by March 30, 2019 -- the day the new post-Brexit era begins.

"We can do it, and we will do it. We are ready to welcome the EMA," insisted Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge.

He said he was "aware of the rumours around Amsterdam's capacity to meet the deadlines. But we will make it, I guarantee it."

Based since 1995 in London's bustling Canary Wharf business district, the EMA evaluates and supervises medicines for human and animal use.