Questions raised about the departure of EU’s science chief during coronavirus outbreak

Mauro Ferrari, former president of the European Research Council. Photograph: EU.

Mauro Ferrari, former president of the European Research Council. Photograph: EU. - Credit: Archant

The head of the European Union's top science organisation has left his job in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak - with the EU claiming fellow members had called forced him out.

Mauro Ferrari had only become president of the European Research Council on January 1, but a statement released to the media claimed he had resigned after being 'extremely disappointed by the European response' to the pandemic.

He complained about running into institutional and political obstacles as he sought to swiftly set up a scientific program to combat the virus.

'I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union,' he wrote.

'I have lost faith in the system itself.'

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But EU Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke later revealed that more than a week before 'the other 19 active members of the scientific council requested the resignation of the president'.

Bahrke did not elaborate and the council's media service did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it adds to concerns that the bloc has not been effective in working together to battle the global pandemic.

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The council's vice president will assume the president's duties on an interim basis until the EU's chooses Ferrari's successor, the spokesman said.

The European Commission defended its record in combating the crisis and said 18 research and development projects had already been picked at short notice to fight the coronavirus crisis.

It said another 50 European Research Council projects were contributing in the EU-wide effort.

'The European Union has the most comprehensive package of measures combating the coronavirus and it is deploying different instruments in order to have the biggest impact for solving the crisis,' the EU's executive commission said.

As the coronavirus spread from China to Italy, Austria, Spain and other EU nations, the bloc was criticised for not acting forcefully enough to set up a coordinated response even though health issues are still primarily the responsibility of the bloc's 27 individual nations.

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