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‘Making sure that EMA staff get off to a good start’

‘The early movers’ is what Geske calls them. These are around a hundred EMA employees who, often together with their families, will be settling in the Netherlands between now and September. The largest group will be coming in early 2019. And the last few dozen, ‘the late movers’, will be arriving in 2020. ‘These are mostly people with children who want to complete the last year of school in a familiar environment.’

The Netherlands Helpdesk

Immediately after it was announced on 20 November 2017 that Zuidas would be the new business location for EMA, Geske and her team set off for London. Their task: to prepare the relocation of EMA and its staff, working on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the City of Amsterdam. A few days later they already had the Netherlands Help Desk up and running in the offices of EMA. ‘And in that same week a Dutch delegation, including Deputy Mayor Udo Kock, visited EMA to provide as many answers as possible to the staff’s questions. Since then we’ve been busy ensuring that we deliver just what we’ve promised the staff in the proposal by the Dutch government to host EMA.’


EMA is responsible for approving medicines for a European market of 500 million people. In order to continue fulfilling this important task in Amsterdam, specialist staff are crucial to the organization. While the Netherlands, Amsterdam and Zuidas were delighted that they will be hosting EMA, the staff of EMA put the feet of the delegation members firmly back on the ground. ‘People had been living in uncertainty for so long about where they would end up. Don’t forget that these people aren’t voluntarily choosing to leave London. They have to, because of Brexit. So there were lots of worries. Can I find a good school for my children? How will I find a house? My partner has a job too, what about this? All questions that express how much the lives of these people had been turned upside down.’

The region

Geske and her team answer questions and talk about living in the Netherlands. The little word ‘region’ sometimes led to misunderstandings here. Housing and more than 25 international schools are available to EMA employees and their families in ‘the region’. ‘If you view this term from the London perspective, then ‘the region’ is located a few hours outside the city. We quite often had to explain how compact the Netherlands is. That you can live in Utrecht, Almere, The Hague or Rotterdam, no problem, and still be at your work in Zuidas in under an hour.’ Plenty has happened since those first weeks when the Help Desk started operating. Directors of European and international schools have travelled to London to hold presentations, a housing fair has been organized and recently the Chamber of Commerce visited the EMA offices in London. ‘The partners of EMA employees who have their own business received information about things like entrepreneurship in the Netherlands.’ Each EMA employee is assigned a relocation agent who helps them with all kinds of practical issues. ‘How do you find the right school for your children, and how do you enrol them there? Where can you find a (temporary) home that meets your requirements? How do you find a family doctor and a dentist?’

Zuidas versus Canary Wharf

By now quite a few EMA employees have visited the Netherlands to take a look around. They have also visited Zuidas to see where they will ultimately be working. Opinions vary, says Geske. ‘Of course people draw a comparison between Zuidas and London’s Canary Wharf, where EMA is currently established. In London there are large shopping malls in the direct vicinity of the headquarters, while the new location in Zuidas is relatively quiet and green. When it comes to accommodation, preferences depend very much on the employee’s personal situation. A young unmarried person will make different choices than a family with school-age children. And there are also people who are seizing the opportunity to begin a new lifestyle. The first house that has been bought by an EMA employee is in Lelystad. You can get a sense of space here that you’ll never find in London.’

A smooth move

Geske and her team will be keeping close track of the first hundred movers. ‘They are gaining useful experience for some 700 further employees, and in many cases their families, who will be arriving from 2019 onwards. We at the Help Desk can respond to this. Building a new life, making your home in another country, it really isn’t an easy matter. It’s our job to ensure that the move goes smoothly and that people can get off to a good start in the Netherlands. So that the work done by EMA for the sake of people’s health throughout Europe can continue as efficiently as possible.’

Give your opinion


I saw in a picture that the duration by train is 35 min to the Zuid-as, well that is substantially less. Living in Oegstgeest 10 minutes cycling from Leiden CS, I may take a train that will take me within 24 minutes to Amsterdam-Zuid, and from Leiden I can take a train that brings me within 12 minutes to The Hague Central. By car Oegstgeest is half an hour driving to Amsterdam-Zuid. So, their are definitely more places to look for housing EMA employees