Johannes Ahvo is an intern at the joint Brussels office of the Academy of Finland and Business Finland.
European Commission – new Commissioners, new era?
In mid-July, Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen was chosen as the next President of the European Commission as a part of the top-level EU appointments package. This started a buzz of rumours about how the commissioner posts are dealt. Last week provided us answers with the publishing of the appointments package by von der Leyen and the Council of the European Union. The proposal for the portfolio of Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation is Bulgaria’s Mariya Gabriel, who is the current Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. Besides research and innovation, the commissioner candidate’s portfolio also includes education.
Next, the candidates will have a hearing at the European Parliament, where they will be heard in the committees corresponding to their field. The hearings will seal the fates of the commissioners. The parliament will vote for the proposed appointments package after the hearings. The new commission will start at the beginning of November at the earliest.
European Parliament – time to use power
European Parliament elections took place at the end of May. During the summer, the parliament organised and is now in full swing. The commissioner hearings present a chance for the parliament to show its power, as the commission is subject to the parliament’s approval.
The composition of the parliament changed in the election: in contrast to the previous parliament, where the centre-left S&D and the centre-right EPP made up the majority, the current parliament is more heterogeneous. Therefore, it is ever more important to establish collaboration and broad-based support. The autumn will show how the wider heterogeneity affects how the parliament works.
Making a difference in research and innovation policy
The preparation of the Horizon Europe framework programme is making rapid progress, but there is still time to have your say. The commission har several open consultations concerning the framework programme. The consultations concerning the collective planning and implementation of Horizon Europe have both been extended until Friday 4 October. Additionally, the thematic committee work for the framework programme begins next year.
Research and innovation and the coming framework programme will be discussed at the R&I Days event in Brussels (24–26 September). The R&I Days is the main event for research and innovation scene, bringing together R&I influencers around Europe. It remains to be seen if the participants have the opportunity to have a say on the upcoming programme.
The consultations and events alone do not finish the framework programme by early 2021. During Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU there will be negotiations on the legislation concerning the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which is one of the unfinished items of the coming framework programme. Other unfinished items include international collaboration, budget, and synergies between the framework programme and other programmes. The budget negotiations depend on the progress of the multiannual financial framework of the EU. Not only does it define the Horizon Europe budget, but also other programme budgets such as the structural funds and the common agricultural policy.
The United Kingdom’s departure from the EU defines the coming autumn and the future; the British hold all the cards. As Carlos Moedas, the current Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said: “We don’t really want you to leave. We never wanted that.” However, the EU is prepared for the British to leave. The crucial factor in the process is the withdrawal agreement bill that may or may not be passed in the parliament of the United Kingdom. The soft and the hard Brexit affect also the R&I scene to different degrees.
The composition of the FiLi office changed during the summer. The new Senior Science Adviser at the Brussels office of the Academy of Finland is Hannele Lahtinen, a long-term Academy staff member with deep knowledge of R&I programmes within the EU.