Brussels, 20 Oct 2004
Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) on 19 October, French President Jacques Chirac called on European countries to increase spending on scientific research, warning that European scientists are falling behind their rivals.
Mr Chirac and King Juan Carlos of Spain were two of the main speakers during the celebrations at CERN, which was created partly to stop the brain drain from Europe to the US in the post-war era.
'In terms of Nobel prizes, publications, patents and science students, Europe is losing ground at an alarming rate,' said the French President. 'Scientific competition is increasing today. It no longer comes from the major powers in the developed world, such as the United States or Japan. Each passing day sees more competition from the large emerging countries, like India and China.'
Mr Chirac said Europe's decision to spend three per cent of its wealth on research by 2010 is not enough, and reiterated a call for public spending on research and development (R&D) to be exempt from the restrictions on Member States' government budget deficits imposed under the EU's growth and stability pact.
This spending signifies 'an investment in the future' said Mr Chirac. 'It would appear to be desirable and more in line with Europe's ambition to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy to place it outside the criteria of the growth and stability pact,' he added. 'We must not give up this vocation, which is the key to our future.'
CERN has its headquarters in Geneva, and at present counts 20 members: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In addition, India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO all have observer status.
CERN's founding convention emphasises that the organisation should foster international collaboration and promote contacts between and the interchange of scientists. 'When the 12 founding Member States ratified the CERN convention on 29 September 1954,' explains CERN's Director General Robert Aymar, 'they gave the new organisation a mission to provide first class facilities, to coordinate fundamental research in particle physics, and to help reunite the countries of Europe after two world wars.' Most would agree that CERN has fulfilled these objectives and more.