Van Rompuy will be part of a summit next week where the heads of the 27 E.U. member countries are supposed to hammer out a compromise on the union's overall budget for 2014 through 2020. Because of the ongoing economic crisis, the €1 trillion budget proposed by the European Commission is likely to be slashed. But a growing chorus of scientists and research organizations has been arguing that research funding should be protected from cuts, because it offers a path out of the crisis and a way to strengthen the European Union's economy in the long term.
Today's delegation was led by Nobel laureates Tim Hunt and Jules Hoffmann, two of the organizers of an open letter published in more than a dozen European newspapers last month. The letter warned that if severe cuts happen, "we risk losing a generation of talented scientists just when Europe needs them most." The laureates presented the letter to the three leaders, along with an online petition in support of the letter that gathered more than 130,000 signatures. Hunt and Hoffmann were joined by Helga Nowotny, president of the European Research Council (ERC), which is funded by the European Union and gives grants to many of Europe's top basic researchers. Also present were organizers of the petition, Maria Leptin and Wolfgang Eppenschwandtner of the Initiative for Science in Europe, and Leif Schröder of the Young Academy of Europe.