Commentators usually assert that summer is a quiet period in Brussels. However, you could argue that this year has been slightly different.
After much discussion and negotiations, the new set of European Commissioners has been selected, and was confirmed by the European Parliament on Wednesday. These Commissioners, each put forward by their respective Member States, have been arranged into different portfolios by the incoming President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. They have undergone hearings in the European Parliament about their suitability for the jobs, and will take up their new roles shortly to take forward the agenda of the new Commission (more on that agenda here).
So what about the new Research, Science and Innovation Commissioner?
Let’s start with the basics. Carlos Moedas is an engineer by training who spent 15 years in the private financial sector before going into politics. He served as a Secretary of State to the Portuguese Prime Minister, and was a key figure in the development and overseeing of Portuguese financial stability policies. He is also fluent in French, Spanish and English in addition to his native Portuguese.
The first opportunity to hear what Carlos Moedas plans to do with his new portfolio was his European Parliamentary hearing, which he passed with no major hiccups. His priorities echoed those in President-elect Juncker’s mission letter.
- Working effectively with colleagues across the European institutions, including the European Parliament, MEPs, other Commissioners and the Vice-Presidents, who will be given well-defined priority projects to steer and coordinate across the Commission, working with teams of various Commissioners.
- Prioritising the improvement of framework conditions for science, such as finalising the European Research Area and the Innovation Union (a flagship initiative for Europe 2020, the EU’s plan for jobs and growth), and achieving gender equality in research.
- Promoting the effective and efficient implementation of Horizon 2020, including access to finance for innovation in SMEs.
- Exploring how to leverage and incentivise greater private investment in European R&D, for example by public-private partnerships. The Europe 2020 strategy includes a target for public and private investment in R&D to total 3% of EU GDP by 2020.
- Defending the value of excellence, citing support for basic research, ‘the river that feeds into technology’, science diplomacy, and international collaborations.
The research portfolio touches on a variety of cross-cutting issues (for example sustainability, which was not mentioned in his mission letter), and therefore requires a lot of cross-working across different Directorates General, so it was important to hear his commitment to working with other colleagues. The cross-cutting nature of the role may be aided by the creation of the Vice-Presidents, but how well this works and the coordination it brings is hard to evaluate until work gets underway.
The new Commission will take office in November. This has been a busy year for the European leadership with a new set of European Parliamentarians elected in May and now new Commissioners. The economy, jobs and growth remain at the heart of the Commission’s political strategy, and science should play a key role in delivering these objectives. Expect autumn in Brussels to be as busy as ever.