Society 26/04/2021

Barcelona aspires to host future European Agency for Health Emergencies headquarters

The City Council and the Government claim that Catalonia has one of the "most dynamic health ecosystems in Europe".

2 min
Barcelona wants to be the headquarters of the future European agency for health emergencies

BarcelonaBarcelona wants to be the headquarters of the future European Health Emergencies Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), a project expected to be in operation by 2023. According to sources from the Department of Health and the Barcelona City Council, the two administrations have maintained initial contacts to promote the candidacy and set in motion the process to present it to the European Commission.

The Catalan Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, and the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, have already had the first meetings and will create a working group to develop the proposal and collect adhesions from other public administrations and research and innovation entities in the field of biomedicine and health sciences. In fact, HERA plans to unite the public sector (universities, research centres, governments...) with the private sector to create more joint research.

Spanish government informed

Through the Department of Health and Foreign Affairs, the Government has already conveyed the intention of Barcelona to host the HERA to the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González-Laya. In the coming days it plans to continue maintaining contacts with the government of the State.

The European Commission decided to promote the creation of this agency in November 2020, with the aim of strengthening the coordination of member states to major international health emergencies. Specifically, it is a plan that aims to prepare Europe against variants of the covid-19 virus and anticipate future health crises, bringing together researchers, biotech companies, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, regulators and public authorities to control variants, exchange data and cooperate in the manufacture of vaccines.

Barcelona takes the step to be the headquarters of the HERA after missing out on hosting the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2017. Although the Catalan city met all the technical criteria and had the approval of the 900 workers, who in an internal survey had placed Barcelona as one of their preferred destinations, things changed a lot after the Referendum and, especially, after direct rule was imposed, removing the Catalan Government, a key player in the promotion of Barcelona's candidacy. In a few days, Barcelona fell in the ranking and lost options to win the vote: in the distribution of agencies, diplomacy, rather than meritocracy, always plays a key role. The State blamed it on the independence movement: "I dare say that this is perhaps one of the direct damages, another of the direct damages, that the independence movement in Catalonia has caused us", assured the then Minister of Health, Dolors Montserrat.

Four years later, Catalonia and Barcelona claim that their ecosystem of life sciences and health studies is "the most dynamic in Spain and one of the most active in Europe". In total, more than 1,200 companies and 90 research and innovation entities work in this field which represents 7.3% of GDP and 6.6% of employment in Catalonia.