Philippe Busquin, a Belgian with a background in physics and a longtime minister for the Socialist Party, has been selected to become Europe's new chief research executive. Romano Prodi, the European Commission's incoming president, today presented Busquin as his candidate for research commissioner. After holding hearings, the European Parliament is slated to approve Prodi's new team of commissioners by mid-September.
In his new job, Busquin will lead the European Union's new research directorate--known up to now as DG-XII--and administer the 4-year, $17.6 billion Fifth Framework research program. The portfolio of his predecessor, Edith Cresson, also included education, but--contending that research and technology "represents a full portfolio"--Prodi has given that task to Viviane Reding from Luxembourg, the candidate commissioner for education and culture. But Prodi plans to shift agricultural research into Busquin's directorate.
In March, the entire European Commission submitted their resignations in the wake of a scathing report by a European Parliament investigative panel that had alleged cronyism and mismanagement (ScienceNOW, 16 March 1999 ). Today, Prodi called the new candidates "a top quality team in which jobs have been allocated to match the proven abilities and experience of each commissioner." He said he would demand that the commissioners streamline the Brussels bureaucracy, live up to high ethical standards, and "give clear direction and leadership."
Busquin, 58, received a physics degree from the Free University of Brussels in 1962 and was an assistant physics lecturer at the university's medical faculty from 1962 to 1977. He did postgraduate studies in ecology and environmental issues at the Free University in 1976 and was chairman of the board of directors of Belgium's Institute of Radioelements from 1978 to 1980. He entered local Belgian politics in 1977 and held various national minister posts until becoming vice president of the Socialist International, a federation of socialist parties, in 1992. He was elected as a member of the European Parliament last month.