April 13. 2024. 5:42

The Daily

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Medicines agency and Amsterdam council clash over proposed location of new ‘erotic centre’

Three years after it moved from London to Amsterdam as a result of Brexit, an angry row has broken out between the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the city council over the proposed location of a new “erotic centre” to replace the old red light district.

The agency, which employs 900 staff and frequently hosts international conferences, is located in the south of Amsterdam, and says two of the three locations being considered for the prostitution centre are “close by” – no more than 10 minutes’ walk, according to Google Maps.

“The EMA would have expected to have been consulted about the appropriateness of the location,” the agency complained in a statement on Tuesday, in which it said it would raise the matter directly with the European Commission in Brussels.

The city council’s decision to move the red light district from Amsterdam’s old centre, it pointed out, was motivated by “concerns of nuisance, drug-dealing, drunkenness and disorderly behaviour”. That being so, locating the erotic centre “in close proximity” to the EMA’s building was likely to bring “the same negative impacts” to the surrounding area.

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Many residents of the Zuid Amsterdam neighbourhood appear to be in agreement with the medicines agency – regarding it as an important ally in pushing the erotic centre towards the third option, the NDSM neighbourhood along the Ij river in the north of the capital. More than 250 people attended a protest meeting in the southern suburb on Tuesday evening, and were united in their condemnation.

“They call it an erotic centre, but let’s face it, it will be a mega-brothel,” said one resident Suzanne Stofberg. “And they want to build it in a residential neighbourhood with lots of schools. That’s outrageous.”

Jan Taminiau, a city hospital doctor, said he understood the EMA’s objections. “Their staff will have to pass the erotic centre to get to trains, often at night. I believe that if the EMA had known about this it would never have chosen Amsterdam for its headquarters.”

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has been unapologetic, however. In a brief statement on Wednesday she rejected the suggestion that the erotic centre would have any impact on the safety of the medicines agency or its staff.

“Everyone can see on the map that there’s at least 500m between the EMA and the closer of the two potential locations”, the statement said. “Police say the locations pose very few risks – and the sex work will be carried on inside the complex, not on the street.”

The multistorey centre, to be built by a private developer on city land, will become home to around 100 of the 249 “brothel windows” currently in the old red light district.