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Head of EU's top science panel quits over COVID-19 response

BRUSSELS (AP) — The head of the European Union’s top science organization has resigned in frustration at the height of the coronavirus crisis. Mauro Ferrari had only become president of the European Research Council on Jan. 1, but EU Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke said that “Professor Ferrari resigned," effective immediately.

The sudden resignation of Ferrari and his stinging criticism was bound to add pressure on EU institutions, which have been accused of not working together to battle the global pandemic. The news was first announced by the Financial Times, based on a statement released to the paper by Ferrari, who said he had “been extremely disappointed by the European response” to the pandemic. He 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.” The European Commission on Wednesday 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.

“The European Union has the most comprehensive package of measures combating the coronavirus and it is deploying different instruments in order to have the biggest impact for solving the crisis," the EU's executive Commission said.

As the coronavirus spread from China to Italy, Austria, Spain and other EU nations, the bloc was criticized for not acting forcefully enough to set up a coordinated response even though health issues are still primarily the responsibility of the bloc's 27 individual nations.

Over the past month, EU nations have been trying to work closer together and EU leaders have committed to better coordination to try to alleviate the human and economic suffering from the global pandemic that has upended the daily lives of billions and dealt a huge blow to the economies around the world.

But it remains an uphill struggle. On the economic and financial front, ministers from the 19 nations that use the euro currency failed Wednesday to get a breakthrough on how and to what extent to use its financial clout to improve solidarity between the richer and poorer member states.

Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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