The Maltese Government’s decision to offer a specially-built, state-of-the-art facility for the European Medicines Agency to relocate to Malta from the United Kingdom after Brexit makes complete sense and causes no surprise, as it is part and parcel of the Island’s long-recognised impression of a natural hub in the middle of perhaps the most important maritime region in the world.
From time immemorial to these days of vast container transhipments, Malta has been used as a hub by the world’s prevailing military and commercial powers. Whether it was Phoenician colour dyes or British coal to a distant place of the Empire, both history and geography have shown us over the centuries that a centralised spot between continents and civilizations provides an ideal bridge over which the constant exchange of goods and services can be carried out in an uncomplicated and efficient manner.
Things have of course changed radically since. Malta’s readiness to host the European Medicines Agency is not merely based on past glory and on traditional expectations, but on 21st Century realities that make the Maltese offer so attractive.
When he addressed a recent meeting of European Union health ministers, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat rightly pointed out why and how Malta offers many advantages, among them educational and health services as well as a quality of life which reaches the aspirations of the people already working at the agency and their families. No less important, the agency’s move to Malta would help prevent the loss of existing talent and possibly even encourage new talent.
Hosting the European Medicines Agency would be yet another feather in the cap for Malta as it seeks to consolidate what has already been achieved in the health and treatment sectors during the past thirty years, culminating in the current infrastrucutral and educational projects that are gradually coming to fruition in those very same sectors.
A free healthcare network of a very high standard is now being fine-tuned and woven into the establishment of a centre of excellence, what with the start of work on the Gozo campus for the world-renowned Barts medical school and the new hospitals being built in a partnership between the Government and private industry.
The relocation of the European Medicines Agency to Malta would, if accepted, be set against this dynamic background where the improvement of the medical research sector and the development of a bigger niche for medical tourism are already well past the launching phase. Also in the offing are a private hospital specialising in the treatment of sports injuries , a mental hospital for children and other medical specialisations.
Add to this highly active scenario the undoubted success of our own Medicines Authority which, in the past four years, has been able to come out of its shell by not only tackling decades-old bottlenecks in the system, such as out-of-stock medicines and unreasonable prices (hitherto successfully reduced in the case of no less than 114 different products), but actually solving them. It is no wonder the authority has since established itself as one of the best five medicines authorities within the European Union. The complete change in the way the authority operates has obviously led to better and more efficient procedures that would eventually offer the required experience should the European Medicines Agency start using Malta as its base of operations.
The fidelity of the Maltese health sector, abetted by the Island’s on-going push towards even better access to better health facilities and services for citizens and visitors alike, as well as the welcoming nature and linguistic prowess of the people, should make it easier when the process of consideration of Malta’s offer ultimately gets under way.
The Maltese presidency of the European Union council has thus far shown both the willingness and aptitude required of the Maltese authorities and which they now seek to exploit in trying to acquire residency of the European Medicines Agency and other such international and regional agencies.
In truth, it is not going full circle, but the continuation of a long-respected tradition – that of being a natural hub in an increasingly inter-dependent world of strategic connections. We are seeing this happening in the maritime and aviation sectors, in the financial sector, and it is slowly but surely occurring in the health sector. The European Medicines Agency would be another jewel in the crown of this nation of home-grown and imported achievers. All fingers crossed hoping it would really happen!