Hearing of Mariya GABRIEL Commissioner-designate, Innovation and Youth

European Parliament Committee on Culture and Education and Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, 30/09/2019 18.30

Chairs: Adina-Ioana VĂLEAN (EPP, RO), Sabine VERHEYEN (EPP, DE)

NOT AN OFFICAL RECORD

NOT A VERBATIM RECORD

I take no responsibility for the use of this summary and/or its accuracy

 

Personal assessment and summary:

This was a strong performance, addressing all the issues raised by parliament. Gabriel vows to fight for the budgets of Horizon Europe and Erasmus+, she addresses extensively widening and synergies with other programmes.  Open science gets a nod in passing. She addresses the concern on how to manage this very large portfolio. She gives the EP an important voice in policy decisions (e.g. as to missions) and commits to regular consultations. She wants to give new life to the European Research Area, as well as the EIC and the new idea of the European education area. She addresses the importance to include citizens and address local contexts – she proposes a roadshow on Horizon Europe in all EU Member States to do so.

Introduction

Chair S.Verheyen started by mentioning the title of the CssR, which does not take into account important parts of the portfolio.

Statement by the CssR-designate

CssR (Designate) Gabriel recalled her previous nomination hearing in 2017 as CssR for Digital. She thanked the EP and everyone she worked with on digital files as well as the Bulgarian government for nominating her, as well as President Van der Leyen for entrusting her with this large portfolio. Her aim is to create a European space of science, education, innovation, culture, and sport which will live up to the expectations of young people and citizens [in general]. Her approach: people at the centre of policies – no one should be left behind. She sees this in particular in the context of a more inclusive Europe, which leaves no one behind. She aims to turn her portfolio in a consistent whole and to identify synergies between its component parts. Her portfolio is an opportunity to bring together all aspects of the knowledge triangle, which are vital prerequisites for growth and sustainability. She addressed the need to address climate change as well as new technological developments and demographic change. She mentioned the following challenges:

  1. The EU is a leader in science, accounting for 7% of the global population by 20% of R&D and 1/3 of high quality publications (more than in the US) – we must maintain our framework research programme and keep it as open and substantial as it is today.
  2. We need to rise to the challenge of developing innovative firms in Europe and develop the necessary conditions – a rationale for the European innovation council and the European institute of technology.
  3. Overcome the fragmentation of research and innovation by changing from widening to sharing[1] to address the vicious circle of low investment, low wages and brain drain: there is no easy solution but we are making some progress (she quotes an example from the recent research and innovation days).
  4. We need to better involve citizens in our regions better – there can be no strong EU if our citizens do not understand what we are doing. She proposes town hall meetings in all EU member states to remedy this.
  5. We need to have the geopolitical vision of the Van der Leyen Commission in mind and look at our international partnerships in the Western Balkans, Africa, the Southern shores of the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership, as well as Japan, Canada and other strategic partnerships.
  6. Culture is the soil of our common values and we need heritage and creativity to build peaceful European societies in an evermore unpredictable world.
  7. The next challenge is financial: the CssR designate pledged her strong defense on the budget for her portfolio.
  8. She mentioned the role of women, which is a subject close to her heart so she pledges to persue inclusive policies.
  9. Finally, pre-existing structures need to be revisited in a time of change: we need out of the box thinking with new initiatives and to break out of silos.

Q&A (not a verbatim record, grouped)

  • The CSSR was asked to explain how she wants to handle her large portfolio. She stressed the need to break down silos and create synergies – so she sees this not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity. She mentioned a future creative industries KIC as an example of such synergies.
  • She wants to give new life to the European Research Area, as well as the EIC and the new idea of the European education area. We should be putting forward ideas which excite our youth. She also mentioned European universities.
  • Questioned on the budget she said that we need to engage not only with the education ministers (for Erasmus) but also the finance ministers. We need to consider Horizon Europe not as an expense, but as an investment. If we don’t invest in R&D, our competitors will.
  • She wants to see a more inclusive Eramsus+, both as refers to the organisations participating and the actions funded (not only for university students).
  • The EP should be fully on board for missions and partnerships – insist on impact, value added, openness and transparency. I intend to work extremely closely with the EP – mission boards should nominate one-person liasioning with the EP. Involvement of EP in strategic planning: its not just a question of sending documents but to have meetings to talk – perhaps once a month, depending what the EP considers appropriate. Own service (the EC) to organise an information campaign to go to each country and present the new programme, talk about challenges, work plans etc. No decision will be taken without consultation of parliament in terms of missions, we need to decide together which programmes to fund.
  • Missions will be a public good – we have to persuade citizens – information campaign: science meets young people, science meets citizens
  • Question on aviation research – Gabriel says we can make progress to make aviation cleaner. Clean sky through innovation aims to reduce emissions.
  • Question on space is important to the EU – Copernicus and Galileo are real success stories due to investments in FP6&7 so Gabriel will be supporting space services, also because they support new market applications (precision farming) and in combating natural disasters. R&D needs to be borne in mind when this policy is fleshed out.
  • We should still cooperate with Israel, while fully taking into account any human rights issues
  • Parliament called for doubling of creative Europe programme – it is chronically underfunded.
  • SMEs very important and supported in EIC. There are other programmes too to support start ups etc, such as Invest EU
  • Commercialisation outside EU? We are on the cutting edge of science but have fallen behind on innovation – cutlire of exploiting and taking to market
  • To combat brain drain she mentioned Marie Curie bursaries for returners to their own countries. (DG RTD and EAC cooperation). Payment is not the only factor in this. We would like to think of a returner grant, but differences are not only in payment: also for peoples’ careers and transparency.
  • Strategic autonomy was mentioned: We need to be standard setting. She stressed that not all MS are the same and that some progress has been made on widening, with 3,3% of the budgeted dedicated to sharing. We also need transparent monitoring instruments to know where we are.
  • Synergies still not decided on in H-E We still have a lot of work to do on this, more than 20 programmes with synergies identified. Some countries have achieved R&D targets, others haven’t, despite making huge efforts. We need not only to say that synergies are out there but refer to the specific situations.
  • Its not enough to say we have a certain budget for widening, we need to get countries involved. We have increased from 4,8% to 5%. [participation rate of EU-13 in H2020] We need to spend more time and money on technical assistance, such as PSF – we can work with a specific country on specific issues. Support mechanism for structural reform under TAIEX but we need to improve member states awareness to make use of it
  • Open science is close to my heart – we need researchers to be able to share findings. Open access to publications, “as free as possible, as guarded as necessary.” Re-use of data, but a lot needs to be done. We need to encourage open access researchers but we must be strong in Europe.
  • Academic freedom important
  • Free access to information is important but so is responsibility (question on fake news)
  • European Education Area: how can we work on recognition of diplomas without everyone becoming the same? Gabriel: the target is 2025. European Student card by 2021 (additionally to national ones).
  • Application processes to complicated for eastern countries? Salary gap: legislative measures?Gabriel: simplification is true for part of the H2020 procedures but we will go further, it is the spirit underlying the next programme. We have no opportunity to influence national salaries – but a study will identify gaps in salaries and working conditions. MS will have to solve these, we can only help.
  • Strong industrial base in Europe? We need to invest strategically in areas of European added value. Without it we will not bring intelligent investment. H2020 projects can provide with H-E funding added value, including to climate change (e.g. hydrogen projects , EIT flagships).

Closing statement by the CssR-designate

She sees this dialogue as the first step in a lasting partnership. Her job titles covers all the issues addressed. A number of issues were prominent: budget, partnership, widening. We need sufficient budget, cultural diversity, young people, quality education and innovative SMEs to address the challenges she outlined. She conclude with a Bulgarian anthem to culture and education.

Further process

The committees will draw up an evaluation report.

Press point with the committee chairs

Interesting and detailed meeting, important that CSSR can defend the budget.

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About

I am expert in EU research policy & Horizon 2020, focused on open science, open access and FAIR/open data policy. More information at: www.spichtinger.net or linkedin. If you found this summary useful, feel free to use it – credit is always appreciated.

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[1] A reference to the change in name of the funding line intended to increase participation of EU-13 in EU research.