NGOs call for debate on how to put science at the heart of EU politics

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Scientific advice should be transparent, objective and independent, and there should be more science and more diverse expertise available to the European Commission’s President, a coalition of 28 international and national NGOs wrote in a letter addressed to President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker today (1).

The new President will have to decide whether or not to retain the position of Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) that was established by his predecessor, President José Manuel Barroso.

In the majority of European countries, governments rely for advice on scientific committees composed of various experts, who prepare transparent and public reports. Among EU countries, only the UK currently maintains the position of a single CSA as a full-time government office (2). The NGOs argue that it is unreasonable to expect that one single person can guarantee objective and competent advice on a widespread range of issues to the European Commission’s President. They are concerned that the model chosen by President Barroso lacks transparency and objectivity, and makes it easier for lobbyists to influence scientific policy advice.

Jorgo Riss, Director of Greenpeace EU, said: “Scientific scrutiny in policy-making is essential. The question is how to ensure that the best representation of wide-ranging and transparent scientific advice is available to incoming President Juncker. The model of relying on a single Chief Scientific Advisor is problematic: it lacks transparency and does not guarantee objective scientific advice. Industry lobbyists want the EU to stick to this model, but there are better ways to promote sound and objective scientific advice for the European Commission”.

The current CSA has stated that her advice should remain “not transparent” and immune from public scrutiny (3) and this is a major concern for the signatory NGOs.

Nina Holland of the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) said: “The CSA position does not and cannot provide decision-makers with the widest and most objective science available. A single position is also far more exposed and vulnerable to the impact of lobbyists. We would welcome a debate on how to put science at the heart of European politics.

Notes to editors:                                   

(1) The joint letter - available in EnglishFrench and German - is signed by 28 international and national NGOs from Austria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and UK.

(2) Cf. the entries on national governance structures in the European Commission Platform on Research and Innovation policies and systems.

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