UPDATE 22 October: the European Parliament has now approved the new commission with 423 votes in favour, 67 abstentions and 209 votes against. Ahead of the vote, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced that, in response to concerns expressed by the Parliament, responsibility for medicines and pharmaceuticals would remain with the Directorate-General for Health, rather than move to Directorate-General for Enterprise as originally proposed. Carlos Moedas will begin his five-year term of office on 1 November alongside the rest of the new Commission.
Carlos Moedas, the man designated to be the European Union’s next research commissioner, got his three-hour hearing by the European Parliament today, giving the continent’s scientists their first opportunity to learn about him.
The parliament is this week interrogating all 27 members of the new Commission proposed by its president Jean-Claude Juncker earlier this month. Hearings focus on nominees’ skills and qualifications for their posts, as well as on their commitment to the European Union and personal integrity. The Commission is due to take office next month, but the European Parliament has the right to reject the line-up if the hearings go badly.
Moedas, a 44-year old economist and politician who began his career studying engineering, is a little-known name outside his native Portugal. Neatly turned out at his hearing, he was courteous and proved competent and well-prepared — in addition to switching fluently between English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
Responding to 50 or so questions, he showed himself knowledgeable on issues ranging from shale gas, to genetically-modified organisms, to antibiotic resistance. He declared himself a strong believer in the value of basic research in driving innovation.
Moedas ticked all the politically correct boxes. He spoke in favour of the sharing of scientific data and intellectual property, and decried the gender gap in research, which he described as a waste of resources.
He cast himself as a dedicated European – the only question he claimed not to be able to answer had been put by a Eurosceptic MEP — and as a consensus-building, goal-oriented team player. He also professed his dedication to implementing the EU’s €80 billion, seven-year Horizon 2020 research programme.
If the parliament approves the Commission line-up, Moedas’s challenge will be to make his mild and rational – and decidedly non-charismatic – approach an effective one.