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Top EU scientist quits over inadequate response to the coronavirus

EUROPE’s top scientist has quit in protest against the EU’s inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic, just months after he took up a four-year term of office.

European Research Council (ERC) president Professor Mauro Ferrari handed in his resignation to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday afternoon.

The Italian-American scientist said that disagreements with the economic bloc had been growing since mid-March, “as it became evident that the pandemic would be a tragedy of possibly unprecedented proportions.”

“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,” he said.

But he explained that the ERC’s Scientific Council had rebuffed the suggestions, insisting that it can only fund “bottom-up” research proposed by scientists instead of larger projects set by EU leaders.

“I argued that this was not the time … to worry excessively about the subtleties of the distinctions between bottom-up versus top-down research,” Prof Ferrari said.

The professor said that he had 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,” he said.

Prof Ferrari warned of a “complete absence of co-ordination of healthcare policies among member states, the recurrent opposition to cohesive financial support initiatives [and] the pervasive one-sided border closures” in the EU.

EU solidarity has been dismissed as “a fairytale” by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, while the EU Commission has admitted that its response to Italy’s pleas for help had been inadequate.

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