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The race to build the new EMA location in time for its move is becoming a crucial topic.
Squinting through the rain at the flooded corner of wasteland alongside the railway line and the motorway threading out of Amsterdam, it was hard to believe that this was the chosen new location of the European Medicines Agency. Harder still to believe the promises that a multi-storey purpose-built block here would be fully operational to accommodate the entire agency staff and host all its meeting by November 2019. "It's going to be over there, where those men are just digging out the remains of that old carpark", the chief architect reassured me, gesturing towards a couple of puny digging machines, motionless, and almost lost in the drizzle. Small wonder that EMA boss Guido Rasi was having to make an effort at remaining polite over the arrangements being made for the upcoming transplantation from London to the Netherlands. The UK has set the date of March 29, 2019 to withdraw from the EU, and even if all the optimistic predictions go to plan, the new EMA building will certainly not be ready by then. But "we will need to be based in Amsterdam from day one of Brexit, that is by March 30, 2019," Rasi pointed out at a media briefing in the Dutch ministry of health on Monday. So in "another layer of complexity", EMA "will need to first move to temporary premises in the city, and only later to the final building. Even the stop-gap solution has been a headache. The initially proposed buildings were not fully fit for purpose, and the Netherlands authorities had to find another option-which "took longer than expected", added Rasi. With the move already a formidable undertaking, this double transfer "means that it will take us longer to go back to normal operations." The new temporary solution, in another complex amid Amsterdam's arid concrete, steel and glass business district, was announced at the briefing with great pomp and circumstance by Dutch health minister Bruno Bruins. But this "is not an optimal solution", said Rasi, standing alongside Bruins: "We will only have half the space compared with our current premises in London", so "we will also have to use external meeting facilities." And there is a race on to get that ready in time too: "On January 1, 2019 we need a fully operational building in order to move our staff gradually from London to Amsterdam" before the date of Brexit. "Let us be clear, we are working against extremely tight deadlines", said Rasi. Peter O'Donnell is a freelance journalist who specializes in European health affairs and is based in Brussels, Belgium