This week’s Council meeting was dominated by discussions about the long-term, sustainable future of CERN. Key points are progress on the Medium-Term Plan, the successful LHC restart, and enlargement.
The budget proposed by management for 2016 was well received, as were the measures to mitigate against the recent change in exchange rates. These items will be put to the vote in September. Discussions on CERN staff employment conditions were conducted in a constructive atmosphere this week, and will continue in future Council meetings. The Council also clearly voiced its congratulations for the smooth and successful start of LHC run 2, coming on top of a clear run of spectacular scientific and technological successes over recent years. In the current climate of austerity, these developments are a strong endorsement from the Council.
Nevertheless, it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that everything is rosy. There has been an air of unease at CERN over recent months, which was very clearly expressed this week by the Staff Association’s gathering on Thursday morning, followed by a declaration read out to Council, and by messages from an elected group of CERN senior staff, known as the Nine, to the Management and the Council. The fact that both the Staff Association and the Nine chose to act shows clearly that their concerns are broadly shared among staff. Both stated clearly that they believe short-termism is posing a threat to CERN’s long-term future.
I am confident, however, that we have reason to be optimistic. All of us: staff, the Management and the Council want a sustainable future for CERN. The challenge is to find one on which we can all agree. Set against a backdrop of uncertainties affecting many of our Member States, which inevitably weigh on Council delegations, this was never going to be an easy task. And it’s one that the recent removal of the cap on the Swiss Franc to Euro exchange rate has only exacerbated. In such circumstances, we of course have to compromise today. The challenge is to do so without compromising the future. This week’s meeting was a good start.
In other news, continuing interest in CERN from beyond our Member States was very much in evidence. The Council welcomed a delegation from Turkey for the first time as an Associate Member, approved Romania’s transition from Candidate for Accession to Member State before the end of the year, and examined an application from India for Associate Membership. As soon as the complete file has been received from India, a fact-finding mission will be carried out according to standard procedures.
In conclusion, this was a constructive week in which the enlargement process took important steps forward, and a week that was dominated by discussions on how to secure a sustainable future for CERN. Although those discussions were lively, it was clear that the Council, Management and staff all have the same interest at heart: a long and successful future for CERN.