The head of the European Research Council, Mauro Ferrari, has resigned, citing his disappointment with the European Union’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ferrari, who became president of the council in January and is the EU's top scientist, said his proposal to create a special program dedicated to combating COVID-19 was unanimously rejected by the research council.
“I am afraid that I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union. In these three long months, I have indeed met many excellent and committed individuals, at different levels of the organization of the ERC and the EC. However, I have lost faith in the system itself,” Ferrari said in a statement to the Financial Times announcing his resignation.
The Times reported on Ferrari's resignation Wednesday.
Ferrari said his rejected proposal would have provided scientists around the world with resources and opportunities to fight the pandemic, including diagnostic tools and science-based behavioral dynamic approaches to replace “the oft-improvised institutions of political leaders.”
Ferrari said he will return to the “the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, with real resources and responsibilities, away from offices in Brussels, where my political skills are clearly inadequate, and again at the true service of those who need new medical solutions.”
A spokesperson for the European Commission defended the research council’s response to the pandemic.
The spokesperson told the Financial Times that 50 ongoing or completed European Research Council projects were contributing to the response to COVID-19 and said the EU is backing 18 urgent research and development projects and financially supporting German company CureVac’s work on a possible vaccine.
A spokesperson for the European Commission was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Hill.
The novel coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in China, rapidly spread across the world, with more than 1.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The outbreak has hit Europe hard, with Spain, Italy, France and Germany each reporting more than 100,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday morning, based on the same Johns Hopkins’ database. Italy has also reported the most confirmed deaths, with 17,127 fatalities.