Members of the European Council
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Members of the European Council are seen on the screen during a video conference call at the Elysee Palace in Paris
The head of the European Union's top science organization has quit at the height of the coronavirus crisis, a move he attributed to disappointment with the EU's response to the pandemic and an EU spokesman said came after other scientists requested their colleague's resignation.

Mauro Ferrari resigned Tuesday as president of the European Research Council, a position he held only since Jan. 1. Ferrari's departure, announced via email, took immediate effect., a spokesman for the EU's executive commission said Wednesday.

"The commission regrets the resignation of Professor Ferrari at this early stage in his mandate (...) and at these times of unprecedented crisis in which the role of EU research is key," European Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke said.

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 virus 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 in the statement. "I have lost faith in the system itself."

Ferrari's resignation came in the wake of a March 27 vote in which "the other 19 active members of the scientific council requested the resignation of the president," the European Commission's Bahrke said.

Bahrke did not elaborate. The council's media service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The council's vice president will assume the president's duties on an interim basis until the EU's chooses Ferrari's successor, Bahrke said.

As the coronavirus spread to Italy, Spain and other European nations, the EU was criticized for not acting forcefully enough to set up a coordinated response, although health policy is primarily a responsibility of national governments.

Bahrke defended the EU's actions during the pandemic, saying the bloc has put forward "the most comprehensive package of measures combating the coronavirus."

He added that the European Research Council has been working on 50 different projects related to the new virus first identified in China late last year.