Anne Glover’s EU advisor role reinstated, MEP says

Frans Timmermans [ euranet_plus]

The European Commission has agreed to retain the role of EU Chief Scientific Adviser, despite the departure of Anne Glover, an MEP claimed today (14 January).

Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans attended a meeting of the European Conservatives & Reformists yesterday (13 January) at which UK MEP Vicky Ford asked him to confirm the status of the role, according to another British MEP present at the meeting, Ian Duncan.

“Timmermans said that there will be a chief scientific adviser. I am very happy as it’s an important function,” Duncan told EURACTIV.

“I have been trying to obtain a confirmation of that from the Commission today, unsuccessfully so far. However, he told us he believed the post was of value and important at this time, I don’t think a remark of that type made in front of 71 MEPs would be made lightly,” Duncan added.

Last year (13 November) Glover confirmed that the role had “ceased to exist”.

>> Read: Juncker still mulling scientific advice role after Glover’s position axed

“President Juncker believes in independent scientific advice,” European Commission spokesman Mina Andreeva said at the time.

“He has not yet decided how to institutionalise this independent scientific advice,” she told EURACTIV.

A Commission spokesman told EURACTIV that the EU executive’s stance had not changed, that Timmermans was committed to the role of science in policymaking, but that Commissioner Carlos Moedas – responsible for research – is considering the issue and that the Parliament will be the first to be informed as and when a decision is made. 

Glover has indicated she will continue in her position until the end of this month offering transitional advice. There was speculation that a decision to renew the role might see her re-appointed, but Glover denied, saying on Twitter she will leave anyway.

Controversial position

The role of the Chief Scientific Adviser was created by then-Commission President José Manuel Barroso in 2012, in order to provide independent expert advice on any aspect of science, technology and innovation requested by him, usually in relation to major policy proposals being submitted to the EU executive.

The job was created in response to repeated calls to strengthen scientific advice and evidence-based policy in Europe.

The question of whether Juncker should reappoint Glover – or someone else – to her post stirred controversy in the Brussels bubble of EU policy specialists last year.

BusinessEurope, the EU employers’ association, supported maintaining the position. In a letter sent in May to José Manuel Barroso, it praised the “positive steps” that were taken under the outgoing Commission to encourage the use of “high quality science whenever officials develop policy, laws and rules”.

But Glover’s role at the European Commission drew criticism from transparency campaigners, who called on Juncker to scrap the position.

“The post of Chief Scientific Adviser is fundamentally problematic as it concentrates too much influence in one person, and undermines in-depth scientific research and assessments carried out by or for the Commission directorates in the course of policy elaboration,” wrote the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) in a letter to Jean-Claude Juncker.

>> Read: EU twisting facts to fit political agenda, chief scientist says

UK MEP Julie Girling (ECR) said that – before his appointment as Commission President – Jean Claude Juncker assured a meeting of the ECR Group that the post would remain when he was canvassing support from them earlier in the year. She said she had put the question to him directly herself.

Professor Anne Glover was appointed in December 2011 as the chief scientific advisor to José Manuel Barroso, then the European Commission President.

A trained biologist who holds a chair in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Aberdeen, she previously served a as chief scientific advisor for Scotland (2006-2011).

Under Glover’s watch, the Commission set up a special advisory group to provide the EU executive with independent information and advice on an array of scientific and technology issues.

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