What can we expect for Chemistry from the new European Commission? 

The new European Commission took up office on 1 December 2019. Chaired by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, 26 other commissioners where appointed by each member state to shape the continent until 2024.

As Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen chairs the executive and assign portfolios to the commissioners. In autumn 2019, EuChemS wrote an Open Letter to President von der Leyen on the need to revise the title of the portfolio for Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and include ‘Research and Education’. We are glad that our request has been heard.

As Commissioner for ’Education, Research, Innovation and Youth’, Mariya Gabriel’s main tasks are structured along the European Research area, that she has yet to implement. Associating research with industrial policy is one of the challenges ahead regarding this process. In her answers to the European Parliament questionnaire, Mariya Gabriel expressed her will to revitalize and boost Europe’s science lead.

‘’Open science and open innovation are essentials policies to realise a true European Research area.’’

– Answers to the European Parliament questionnaire
Mariya Gabriel

On a broader note, Mariya Gabriel supports the increase of the Erasmus+ programme funding: tripling the budget would further develop the inclusiveness of the Erasmus+ programme. Also concerning education, she works on the implementation of the Digital Education transformation plan. Although we live within the digital area, people in Europe are behind when it comes to digital education. Upgrading the Digital Education transformation programme can be done with a focus on the training teachers receive over the continent. Indeed, technology should be used to support their work, in order to transmit digital skills to younger generations. What is more, Mariya Gabriel is also a fervent advocate of gender equality. In the past, she launched the ‘women in digital strategy’ to combat gender stereotypes in digital and stimulates scientific, digital and engineering career paths for women. These efforts will be maintained until 2024. Last, but not least, Mariya Gabriel is also in charge of the Joint Research Center (JRC), the in-house scientific service of the European Commission.

Mariya Gabriel’s mission takes part within the framework of Open Science. Through a digital single market, Open Science aims ‘make research more open, global, collaborative, creative and closer to society’ (read Open Science Policy here).

Overall, the European Green Deal is one of the priorities of the Commission for 2019-24, along with the promotion of the European way of life, a stronger Europe in the world, a new push for European democracy, an economy that works with people and a Europe fit for the digital age. During her first speech as the new Commission President at the global climate conference COP25 in Madrid, Spain, Ursula von der Leyen relaunched discussions on budget matters for research. To reach the goal of climate neutrality in the framework of a European Green Deal, €1 trillion of investment over the next ten years should be unleashed to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions on the continent by 2050. It will cover many policies areas, from energy to biodiversity.

Laura Jousset
EuChemS Science Communication & Policy officer