EU's East Lambastes Western Peers Over Brexit Post-Spoils

Updated on
  • Bids to host banking authority and medicines regulator fail
  • Slovak PM says selection criteria ‘were completely ignored’

Ex-communist members of the European Union lashed out at their western neighbors for disregarding them when selecting new venues for two London-based agencies after the U.K. leaves the trading bloc.

In secret ballots Monday, EU members chose Amsterdam for the European Medicines Agency and Paris for the European Banking Authority. The decisions capped months of lobbying over applications by 19 cities, from Stockholm to Bucharest, for the medicines regulator and eight, including Frankfurt and Vienna, for the bank authority.

Slovakia said the EU’s selection criteria -- including accessibility, availability of schools and health care for staff families, and operational readiness when Brexit happens -- were violated. Romania complained that technical aspects were discounted, while Croatia pulled its bid before the decision in protest at what it called “non-principled” selection.

“The criteria on how agencies in the U.K. will be relocated were clearly set,” Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said Wednesday in Bratislava, his country’s capital. “But they were completely ignored and big players did whatever they wanted with the small players. These are the things that will continue to divide the EU.”

Fico compared the city-selection process to the situation around a new Russian-led gas pipeline, where he said Slovakia’s concerns that it will lose transit revenue are being ignored.

Treatment by western EU nations is a sensitive issue in the continent’s east as governments from Bratislava to Bucharest complain their interests are being neglected by bigger nations. Poland and Hungary are locked in a fight with the bloc over allegations they’re undermining democracy, while some countries say international food brands sell inferior products compared with their equivalents in places such as Germany, Austria or France.

That hasn’t stopped eastern Europe from pushing for top positions in Brussels. Ex-Polish Premier Donald Tusk is already president of the European Council, while Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir is among candidates to head the group of euro-area finance ministers.

Poland didn’t voice objections to the agency decisions, even though its bids failed.

“We’re in a better situation because we have the gigantic border agency, Frontex, as well as a non-EU office for democratic institutions and human rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told public radio Tuesday.

— With assistance by Peter Laca

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