Parliament vote clears way for Ivanova’s appointment as commissioner

12 Sep 2023 | News

Member states due to officially confirm Iliana Ivanova as new commissioner for research, innovation and education next week

Iliana Ivanova now only needs approval from EU member states before she can officially become the next commissioner for research, innovation and education. Photo: Eric Vidal / European Union

Iliana Ivanova is one step away from her EU commissioner seat after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of her appointment this afternoon.

With 600 votes cast, 522 MEPs voted in favour, 51 abstained and 27 voted against in a secret ballot.

The Bulgarian will take up post as commissioner for research, innovation and education after EU member states clear the way at the General Affairs council next Tuesday.

Congratulating Ivanova on the outcome of the vote, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen confirmed she’s ready to welcome her onboard. “Your experience, ideas and enthusiasm will benefit the College as a whole,” von der Leyen said.

Preparations for the incoming commissioner are in full swing at the European Commission, where Ivanova is learning the ropes of overseeing the implementation of the EU’s €95.5 billion seven-year research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, alongside a myriad of other priorities.

A Commission spokesman confirmed Ivanova met the Commission’s director general for research and innovation Marc Lemaitre ahead of her hearing at the European Parliament last week. “Together with the many meetings held at the European Parliament, these exchanges have contributed to structure the Commissioner-designate’s vision on her portfolio,” the spokesman said.

The commissioner-to-be has already garnered support from both members of the Parliament and the research community. Following her hearing at the Parliament last week, many praised Ivanova for doing her homework on the intricacies of the wide-ranging portfolio she is set to take over and her exceptional communication skills.

Brussels’ research stakeholders hope the new commissioner will use her time in office to actively steer the strategic direction of the first phases of the shaping the next big EU research framework programme, due to start in 2028.

Mattias Björnmalm, secretary general of the university association CESAER, also singled out the work on the next batch of files under the 2025-2027 European Research Area policy agenda as a key priority in need of the commissioner’s attention.

EU treaties aim to ensure the free circulation of research, knowledge and technology. “Ensuring that this freedom is finally fulfilled as part of the EU’s single market needs dedicated support at the highest political levels,” Björnmalm says.

Ivanova herself cited ensuring stable funding for research and innovation, simplification of the EU’s current Horizon Europe research programme and international science cooperation as key priorities.

But before she gets to work, Ivanova will need to officially assemble her cabinet. Names haven’t been announced yet, but “of course, preparatory work starts before,” a spokesman said.  “Commissioner-designate Iliana Ivanova is very busy already preparing for her term, including on HR matters, so that the work can start immediately once all procedures are completed.”

Ivanova was nominated for the job in late June after the previous commissioner Mariya Gabriel left for Sofia to lead coalition talks in her native Bulgaria.

At the time, Ivanova was a member of the European Court of Auditors. Previously, she served as an MEP and was vice chair of the Parliament’s budgetary control committee.

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