Head of EU's top science panel quits over COVID-19 response

Elias Hubbard
April 8, 2020

Mauro Ferrari, president of European Union's (EU) top science organization, the European Research Council (ERC), has resigned in frustration to the EU's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ERC hit back with a lengthy statement accusing Ferrari of being "economical with the truth" and lambasting him for not showing proper commitment to the job.

However, his ambitious plans were not welcomed, he said, noting that: "The ERC Scientific Council, its governing body, unanimously rejected the idea", arguing that as an institution it is only allowed to fund bottom-up research proposals by scientists, rather than programmes "with objectives set by European Union leaders".

He had argued for the ERC to create a new, more hands-on initiative to provide scientists and health care workers with more help and resources - but his proposals were apparently rejected.

In response, the scientific council said its 19 members had already voted to demand that Ferrari quit almost two weeks ago in a unanimous vote of no confidence.

EU countries will work with the Commission and the European Data Protection Board to develop the principles by April 15.

"Since his appointment, Professor Ferrari displayed a lack of engagement with the ERC, failing to participate in many important meetings, spending extensive time in the United States of America", the statement said. The council's media service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the Europan Commission, the bloc's executive that oversees the ERC, confirmed Ferrari had resigned with immediate effect on Tuesday.

The ERC was established in 2007 to fund top European scientists with a budget of 1.86 billion euros (RM8.8 billion) in 2018.

Virus-tracking apps could help authorities find people who have been exposed to Covid-19 so they can be isolated and may ultimately lead to a way out of the restrictive social-isolation measures that are keeping schools, shops and restaurants closed.

On the economic and financial front, ministers from the 19 nations that use the euro currency failed on Wednesday to get a breakthrough on how and to what extent to use its financial clout to improve solidarity between the richer and poorer member states.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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