Posted on Nov 14, 2017
As the UK prepares to leave the EU, following their June 2016 national referendum, I am convinced that we are watching a quiet but fundamental shift in the gravitational centre of Europe eastwards. While the UK’s departure is a significant movement, these historical changes are not unusual in our region. Due to the Ottoman occupation and the division of Hungary into three parts Bratislava hosted the Hungarian Administration and the Parliament (Országgyűlés) from 1541 to1831, before this returned to Budapest
During my time as an MEP representing Hungary in the European Parliament I have tirelessly campaigned for more EU agencies to come to Central and Eastern Europe. A leopard does not change its spots. On 20th November, a crucial vote in the General Affairs Council will be taken on the relocation of two important EU Agencies which must move from London after March 2019 pursuant to the United Kingdom’s Brexit decision, the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority. The EU now has the opportunity to balance the geographical distribution of the Agencies, and to provide for a fairer distribution of the benefits that such organisations bring to their host countries so that the Council can send a clear and ambiguous signal that the EU is committed to its declared strategy of providing for a stronger and more united Europe. For this reason, I believe that the time has come for this redistribution to provide for the relocation of the EMA to Bratislava, or another city in Central and Eastern Europe.
This is more than just a question of “Fair Play” and respect of the “Club Rules” by the EU member states; a Joint Statement of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission on decentralised agencies stresses the desirability of a fair geographical spread for the Agencies, and this factor is also mentioned in the evaluation criteria for the Council to take its decision on the relocation of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority. Slovakia is the only country of the EU “big bang” enlargement of 10 members in 2004 which still has no agency. It also means standing up for the EU’s core values and sending a strong message to the red bottomed baboons of euro-scepticism that the EU will not give in to their unprincipled behaviour and their fake news, but will stand by the supporters of European democratic values and principles in order to create a stronger and more united Europe.
One of the key pillars of EU cohesion is the free movement of people, ideas, services and capital. This is designed to prevent the development of East-West “silos” that restrict freedom, and this movement should not be in one direction only. We need to move away from the prejudice that Eastern European countries are good places to come for holidays, but not for professional careers and employment. Working in Central and Eastern Europe is not a punishment but a freedom. Eastern Europe educates an increasing number of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and health professionals who make their careers in Western Europe and beyond. There is also a significant flow of more and more students from Western countries who choose to pursue their education in medicine and life sciences in Eastern Europe. We need to redress the balance and give the countries of Central and Eastern Europe the opportunity to create more and better employment opportunities for their health professionals to have the choice to pursue careers in their home countries if they should wish to do so. It is natural that Slovakia should be keen to attract back to some of their brightest and best health professionals.
From a cultural perspective, Bratislava has a sophistication that competes with any European city. It is centrally located in the heart of Europe with excellent accessibility by international road, air and rail. It is a safe and secure city offering an excellent and affordable living environment with a high quality of life, education, labour market and job opportunities. The city has an open and welcoming economy and is one of the most prosperous regions in Europe with a strong, independent and open-minded civil society. Bratislava is a modern and efficient city to work in, with a flourishing IT sector and a high percentage of new start up businesses, thanks to its low tax system and the widespread availability of high speed internet and mobile communications across the country.
Relocation of the European Medicines Agency from London to Bratislava can be the catalyst for significant economic change in the entire Central and Eastern European Region. The time for this decision is here and now, and I urge the Council to grasp this opportunity firmly and implement it with courage and confidence.
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