Towards a safe and just operating
space for EU agriculture

Project Advisory Board

The Scientific and Policy Advisory Board (SPAB) advises the project on the central scientific scope and direction of BrightSpace, and on research design issues, taking account of new policy and scientific developments and insights. The SPAB comprises internationally recognized policy experts and scientists with outstanding expertise relevant to BrightSpace.

Anne Maréchal, Ms

Anne is a policy officer in DG ENV, Unit D1 which focuses on land use and management. Within the agriculture team, Anne follows the CAP Strategic Plans of a number of Member States, contributes to policy development and horizontal dossiers in relation to agriculture and the environment.

Anne holds an MSc (diplome d’ingénieur) in agricultural sciences, food and environment and a Master in European business and management. Following a Bluebook traineeship at DG AGRI in 2011, Anne worked for 10 years as a policy analyst where she led research and evaluation projects in the fields of agriculture, land management, climate and the environment. In that position, she carried out several studies for DG AGRI evaluating the environmental impacts of the Common Agricultural Policy (2014-2020).

In 2021, Anne joined the soil team of the Joint Research Centre in Ispra where she contributed to building the scientific evidence base in preparation for the Soil Monitoring Law proposal. In 2023 she joined the European Commission, DG Environment, Unit D1 Land Use & Management.

Birgit Müller, Prof. Dr.

Birgit Müller is a socio-environmental systems modeller based at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig, Germany, at the Department of Ecological Modelling. She holds a joint professorship with the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg on “Modelling Human-Environment Systems”. 

She uses in particular agent-based models (ABMs) to study intended and unintended effects of policy instruments on the social-ecological resilience of farmers in Europe and smallholders in the Global South. She was part of interdisciplinary teams which contributed to a better incorporation of human behaviour in models. She has strong interest in advancing approaches which help to upscale, transfer and reuse models or model components for suitable research questions and contexts.

Having studied Business Mathematics at the University of Leipzig (Germany), she holds a PhD in Applied System Science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany. She served as a member of the External Advisory Board of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Centre SESYNC in Maryland, US.

Olaf Heidelbach, PhD

Olaf Heidelbach studied Agricultural Economics and Development Studies at the Universities of Hohenheim/Germany and Ȧs/Norway. 

In 2007 he defended his doctoral thesis on innovative risk management instruments in Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector at IAMO/the Martin Luther University in Halle/Germany. He has been an Associate Professor lecturing risk management and analysis in the MBA Programme of the American University of Central Asia in 2008 and 2009. 

Between 2007 and 2012 he has been working at the EU Delegation to the Kyrgyz Republic and has managed numerous projects and sector policy support programmes in Central Asia on good governance, education, and rural development involving civil society and government institutions. 

Between 2012 and 2017, he was the responsible programme manager at the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan for the sectors agriculture/rural development and budget support operations/public financial management and has acted as Head of Cooperation. 

Between 2017 and 2020 he managed at the EU Delegation in Sri Lanka the EU’s interventions in agriculture/rural development and public financial management. 

Since September 2020 works as a teamleader in the European Commission’s DG AGRI with a focus on sustainable food systems.

Francisco De Asis Sanchez Crespo, PhD

Francisco is a policy officer in DG ENV, working in the Research Team of the Unit A3-Green Knowledge and Research Hub, Life. Before joining the Commission in 2022, Francisco developed his professional career during 20 years in the private sector, mainly as a consultant in civil and environmental engineering, but also as an operational manager of large public contracts and as a part-time professor at the university.

Francisco studied at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain), obtaining a MSc Agronomy Engineer in 2002 and a PhD in Agro-Engineering in 2022 with the thesis “Differential Interferometry over Sentinel-1 TopSAR images measuring Earth surface deformations. A tool for water and tillage soil erosion analysis in agricultural basins”, which was awarded the “Premio José Cascón 2023” for the best doctoral thesis in agronomy.

Tassos Haniotis, PhD

Tassos Haniotis is an agricultural economist bringing more than three decades of professional experience in agriculture, especially in the areas of agricultural policy, US-EU agricultural trade relations, food security, farm policy evaluation, and commodity market analysis.

His present activities focus on the manner by which a wide array of best farm practices impact agricultural productivity not just in its purely economic or social dimension, but especially in its broader environmental dimension. His objective is to contribute to the better understanding of the interplay between positive and negative externalities of farm production, and its relevance for the debate of generating synergies of policy initiatives combining to climate change action and food security.

He retired in the summer of 2022, after a 33-year career in the Commission, as the Director of Strategy, Simplification and Policy Analysis in the Directorate General for Agriculture of the European Commission.

He previously held posts as Head of Unit in the Agricultural Policy Analysis and Perspectives unit and the Agricultural Trade Policy Analysis unit in the same Directorate General, as Member and subsequently Deputy Head of the Cabinet of former European Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischler (with respective responsibilities the preparation of the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, and the agricultural chapter of the Doha WTO Round and the EU-Mercosur negotiations), and as the Agricultural Counsellor of the European Commission’s Delegation in the United States.

He holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Agricultural Economics from the University of Georgia, USA, and a B.A. in Economics from the Athens University of Economics and Business, in his native Greece.