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8 Apr, 2020 16:09

Losing their top scientist and being forced into a humiliating Covid-19 U-turn reveals just how weak and useless the EU really is

Losing their top scientist and being forced into a humiliating Covid-19 U-turn reveals just how weak and useless the EU really is

By anyone’s measure, Brussels has had a catastrophic 24 hours. The curtain has fallen away giving us a rare glimpse of the toxic political blend of careerism and arrogance that attacks the very heart of the EU like, well, a virus.

The departure of Europe’s top scientist, Mauro Ferrari, from his post as president of the European Research Commission (ERC) yesterday afternoon is bad enough. But the 1,000-word statement to the Financial Times was not just a withering assessment of politics at the highest echelons of European power, its timing could not have been worse.

Mauro Ferrari, who had only held the post since the start of this year, is clearly not a chap to be trifled with and when confronted with careerists, both political and administrative, was not prepared to compromise over what he saw as the best way of dealing with the pandemic. 

In his statement, Prof. Ferrari said: “Please forgive me, but I believe that the priority now is to stop the pandemic. The priority is to save possibly millions of lives. It takes precedence over careers, politics, even the beauty of certain science.”

Who could possibly argue with that? Well, the politicians leading Europe from Brussels can. They don’t like the idea of some uppity scientist getting all, you know, scientific about viruses and stuff, when they’re supposed to be the ones in charge.

You have to wonder at the mentality behind the decision to appoint Ferrari to a post where, while he was granted a budget of €2 billion ($2.2 billion) a year, no one was prepared to listen to his scientific advice.

The professor 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.”

Man, was he working for the wrong outfit. The Commission’s own scientific committee, having successfully dealt with, um, lemme count, zero pandemics in its history, decided that the head of the ERC was there to provide “bottom-up” scientific ideas, not any sort of “top-down” leadership.

You gotta love the nonsensical, middle-management mumbo-jumbo that pervades Brussels.

But there was more to follow.

Humiliatingly for the EC, Ferrari’s resignation came only hours after it had been forced into a U-turn over its grand plan for developing a pathway for member nations to exit their lockdown strategies amid confusing signs over whether or not the spread of Covid-19 virus is subsiding.

Also on rt.com Head of EU's top science body quits after Covid-19 response plans get bogged down by Brussels bureaucracy

First there was the headline from one media outlet: “European Commission to unveil strategy to exit virus lockdown,” where it was announced that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today planned to develop a strategy aimed at a co-ordinated easing of the restrictive measures currently in place across most of Europe.

Screeeeech! The sound of brakes sharply applied came just moments later as it was reported elsewhere by Politico: “Brussels drops lockdown exit plan after anger from capitals,” thanks largely to Italy and Spain, where thousands have died, who made it clear they believed the Commission was moving too quickly.

Meanwhile, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic were traveling against the traffic, suggesting they might lift restrictions on movement as early as next week.

With such clear disagreement on display over such a fundamental part of the strategy of dealing with the coronavirus, even a pioneering scientist (in nanoscience) with knowledge and experience at the head of Europe’s key scientific institution was going to have a battle on his hands in being heard above the political clamor.

So, au revoir, Prof. Ferrari. He’s now off to the US where he plans to set up an international research group to fight the battle against Covid-19.

I wonder if he’ll have better luck with Donald Trump.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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