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Inside out

Back page gossip from the 3 November issue of Research Europe

Foot in mouth Günther Oettinger’s rise from the digital brief to taking on Commission budget responsibilities following the resignation of Kristalina Georgieva as vice-president ought to have been a moment of triumph for the German. Instead, Oettinger has been trying to explain a bizarre speech he gave at an industry event in Hamburg, just days before his promotion, in which he referred to Asian people as “schlitzaugen” (slotted eyes) and mocked the physical appearance of a Chinese delegation. “Do we want to export values?” he also asked attendees that night. Er, maybe not? 

What not to read A glowing profile of Estonian MEP Kaja Kallas was published this month by the news website Politico. This member of the Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee has become “a force to be reckoned with on digital issues”, the piece gushed. Reasons not to feel the force? The profile was sponsored content, paid for by Kallas’ Parliament group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Money well spent, surely.

Train crash The Parliament has set up a ‘legislative train schedule’ website to help the public keep track of legislative proposals arising from the Commission’s 10 priorities. The website’s launch was accompanied by an animated video of brightly coloured locomotives chugging merrily through verdant fields. Sadly the site is completely incomprehensible, with no apparent connection between information for ‘departures’, ‘on hold’, ‘expected arrivals’, ‘arrived’ and ‘derailed’. On the other hand, if the aim was to replicate the frustrations of train travel…job done.

Saving time A meeting of the full Parliament this month set aside two whole hours to debate the use of daylight-saving time across the EU; a subject guaranteed to divide early birds and night owls pretty much equally. In the opening statement, the culture commissioner Tibor Navracsics declared that several studies into the effects of daylight saving on health and energy use have been inconclusive. MEPs would have been forgiven for taking the remainder of the two hours for an afternoon nap. 

Legislators beware We were intrigued to see, in the League of European Research Universities’ submission to the interim review of Horizon 2020, a suggestion for a ‘research principle’ to be considered in the development of any EU legislation. This would sit alongside the ‘innovation principle’, which was adopted earlier this year in part to balance the ‘precautionary principle’, which aims to protect health and the environment. Perhaps policymakers could adopt a principle of agreeing a principal principle, principally to avoid any confusion?

This article also appeared in Research Europe