It has been a busy couple of weeks across the European Union, but what does that mean for science?

European flag

European flag. Image credit: CC-BY-2.0

Jean-Claude Juncker has been confirmed as President of the European Commission and the new Commission is beginning to take shape with the appointment of European Commissioners from across the 28 member states. The European Parliament will then get the opportunity to grill the proposed European Commissioners on their portfolios and suitability for their jobs before confirming their appointment.

Given the success of many Eurosceptic parties in this year’s European elections, it will make for interesting listening.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has nominated Lord Hill of Oareford as the UK’s candidate and will be advocating for him to be given a strong Commissioner portfolio.

For science, the decision over who will replace Maire Geoghegan-Quinn as European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science is the one to watch. The Research Commissioner is responsible for Horizon 2020, the European funding programme for research and collaboration, which aims to support innovation from ‘lab to market’.

This is important for the UK. As Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said at the UK launch of Horizon 2020 at the Royal Society earlier this year, the UK is a top beneficiary from EU research funding due to its excellent research system and science base, and “UK bodies have received over 6 billion Euro, that’s more than 15% of the total budget, much more than the 11% of the EU budget that the UK contributes.”

So what comes next?

We will have a better idea of the key Commissioner portfolios by the end of August, once a summit of EU leaders has taken place. After this the new Commission and Parliament will set out their priorities for the future. It will be interesting to see what the new Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation sees as the EU’s scientific priorities for the next five years.

A key priority should be embedding science and evidence throughout the EU policy making process. EU policy makers must respond to challenges such as food and energy security, and there is a crucial role for scientific advice to play in informing policy decisions to respond to such challenges. The European Union will also be working towards the priorities set out by the Italian Presidency of another EU institution, the Council of the European Union, which I will be blogging about soon.

In the meantime, David Cameron is sitting down with Jean-Claude Juncker today, Thursday 17 July, to discuss the UK’s candidate for European Commissioner, and his plans for reform across the European Union.

Whatever the outcome, it is going to be an interesting few months, so watch this space.