The head of the European Union’s top science organisation has resigned in frustration at the height of the Covid-19 crisis.
Mauro Ferrari resigned as president of the European Research Council, a position he held only since January 1.
Prof Ferrari’s departure, announced via email, took immediate effect, a spokesman for the EU’s executive commission said.
Prof Ferrari complained about running into institutional and political obstacles as he sought to swiftly set up a scientific program to combat the virus.
“I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union,” he wrote.
“I have lost faith in the system itself.”
Prof Ferrari’s resignation came in the wake of a March 27 vote in which “the other 19 active members of the scientific council requested the resignation of the president,” European Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke said.
The council’s vice-president will assume the president’s duties on an interim basis until the EU chooses Ferrari’s successor, Mr Bahrke said.
The European Commission defended its record in combating the crisis and said 18 research and development projects had already been picked at short notice to fight the coronavirus crisis.
It said another 50 European Research Council projects were contributing in the EU-wide effort.
As the coronavirus spread from China to Italy, Austria, Spain and other EU nations, the bloc was criticised for not acting forcefully enough to set up a co-ordinated response even though health issues are still primarily the responsibility of the bloc’s 27 individual nations.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has threatened to cease sending US funds to the World Health Organisation (WHO), claiming that the international body “missed the call” on the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Trump told reporters the WHO had “called it wrong” on the virus and that the organisation was “very China-centric” in its approach, seemingly suggesting that the WHO had gone along with Beijing’s efforts months ago to minimise the severity of the outbreak.
The WHO has praised China for its transparency on the virus, even though there has been reason to believe that more people died of Covid-19 than the country’s official tally.
“They should have known and they probably did know,” Mr Trump said of WHO officials.
Britain has asked the US for 200 ventilators to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Trump also said.