EU’s top scientist quits over bloc’s coronavirus response – ‘extremely disappointed’
Professor Mauro Ferrari, who began his four-year terms as leader of Europe’s flagship scientific institution at the start of 2020, quit after admitting he was “extremely disappointed” with the response to the global crisis so far. As of Tuesday, 52,624 deaths were recorded in Europe, with the first recorded in France on February 15.
The sheer amount of deaths and cases in countries such as Spain, Italy, and France has resulted in Professor Mauro Ferrari claiming the logistical approach of the bloc has thus far proved inadequate.
Speaking to the Financial Times, he said: “I have been extremely disappointed by the European response to Covid-19.
“I arrived at the ERC a fervent supporter of the EU (but) the COVID-19 crisis completely changed my views, though the ideals of international collaboration I continue to support with enthusiasm.”
The European Research Council was set up in 2007 in order to fund the continent’s best best scientists.
It has since become one of the world’s leading and most prestigious funding agencies, with an annual budget of around £1.8billion.
Professor Ferrari, a pioneer of nanomedicine – a branch of medical applications that uses nanotechnology in accordance with biological devices – said his exacerbation with the EU sprouted in early March, just as the virus was gripping several European nations.
During this time he claims to have suggested to the bloc the creation of a a special ERC programme to combat COVID-19.
He said: “I thought that at a time like this, the very best scientists in the world should be provided with resources and opportunities to fight the pandemic, with new drugs, new vaccines, new diagnostic tools, new behavioural dynamic approaches based on science, to replace the oft-improvised intuitions of political leaders.”
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Yet, his suggestion seemed to fall on deaf ears, as Professor Ferrari explained: “I argued that this was not the time for scientific governance to worry excessively about the subtleties of the distinctions between bottom-up versus top-down research.”
When Ursula von Der Leyen, the EU’s commission president, asked him about his views on the pandemic, he developed a plan “to which she contributed substantial directives”.
He said: “The very fact that I worked directly with her created an internal political thunderstorm.
“The proposal was passed on to different layers of European Commission administration, where I believe it disintegrated upon impact.”
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Shortly after the professor stepped down, lamenting “the complete absence of co-ordination of healthcare policies among member states, the recurrent opposition to cohesive financial support initiatives, the pervasive one-sided border closures” in the EU.
Many claim that the pandemic has exposed cracks in the EU’s solidarity.
It is an inevitable revelation as several nations have become disproportionately affected by the virus compared to other member states.
Earlier this week German chancellor Angela Merkel said the coronavirus was the biggest threat the EU has ever faced.
In a press briefing, she said: “Everyone has been hit equally by this and it must be in the interest of everyone, and of Germany, that Europe emerges stronger from this test.
“The answer can only be: more Europe, a stronger Europe and a well-functioning Europe.”
Yet, European nations have spent the last week arguing over contingency plans and details concerning economic relief and financial aid.
Italy, Spain and France have been arguing for debt-mutualisation to tackle the economic fallout.
The demands have so far been rejected by Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, who fear it would create loose financial policies.
“I consider the debate about eurobonds as a not so serious one, because everybody knows that you would have to change the fundamental contract of the EU,” Austrian finance minister Gernot Bluemel told Bloomberg News on Monday.
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