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

WECF signs, along with 25 other NGOs joint letter initiated by Greenpeace: Scientific advice to the European Commission’s President should be transparent and objective"

19.08.2014 |Joint NGO letter

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 25 international and national NGOs wrote in a letter addressed to President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker today (1).

The press release issued by Greenpeace EU further stated that the new President will have to decide whether or not to retain the position of Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) that was established by his predecessor, President José Manuel Barroso.

In the majority of European countries, governments rely for scientific advice on expert committees who prepare transparent and public reports. Among EU countries, only the UK currently maintains the position of 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 to the President. They are concerned that the model chosen by President Barroso lacks transparency 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 Anglo-Saxon model of relying on a single Chief Scientific Adviser is problematic: it lacks transparency and does not guarantee objective scientific advice. Industry lobbyists want the EU to stick to the UK 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.”

(1) The joint letter - available in English, French and German - is signed by 25 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:

(3), Euractiv, 6 August 2014.