Medicines watchdog battles to reinstate chief
by Gary Finnegan: The European Medicines Agency is waging a fierce battle against the EU’s own employment court over the controversial 2011 appointment of its former Executive Director.
Professor Guido Rasi was abruptly removed from his post last November after an internal employment body ruled that proper procedures were not followed when he was appointed.
Prof Rasi’s qualifications are not in question, nor are there allegations of anything untoward, but disgruntled runners-up are legitimately questioning whether they were given a fair hearing.
The ‘procedural error’ relates to how the European Commission drew up a shortlist for the position in 2011. Bulgarian drug regulator Emil Hristov – who previously served on the EMA board – had appealed against Rasi’s appointment on the grounds that the shortlisting of candidates was ‘improper’.
Hristov had been ranked eighth on a list of eight people interviewed for the post but his name was not included in the final group of candidates presented to the EMA board. The case had been hanging over the Agency for three years at a time when it has been working to balance rising demands on its resources.
The London-based medicines agency is now appealing that decision to the European Court of Justice, urging it to set aside the ruling by the European Civil Service Tribunal.
The drugs watchdog says the Civil Service Tribunal overstepped the mark in reaching a decision that was beyond the scope of its powers. In essence, one EU agency is suing another arm of the EU at the EU’s stop court.
After the ruling in November, the EMA Management Board said it had little choice but to ask Professor Rasi to step aside while it explored its legal options. Andreas Potts, the EMA’s Deputy Executive Director, was installed on an interim basis and Professor Rasi was taken on shortly afterwards as principal advisor in charge of strategy.
Potts had previously served as interim director prior to Rasi’s appointment which followed a period of almost a year where the drug watchdog was in limbo over the recruitment of an executive director.
That delay stemmed, at least in part, from a stand-off between the EMA and the European Commission over the pay grade attached to the post.