As an international organisation, CERN has been hosting diplomatic visits on a regular basis since its earliest days. However, the visit of the Federal Council (the Swiss Confederation’s executive body, made up of seven elected representatives) on Wednesday, 27 April was rather exceptional. The Council came to CERN for an extramural session, i.e. one that takes place beyond the walls of the Federal Palace in Bern, where it usually meets. This special governmental meeting was followed by an official visit by the President of the Confederation, Ignazio Cassis.
Although unprecedented for CERN, this extramural version of the Federal Council’s weekly meeting is an established practice in Switzerland: since 2010, the Council has been demonstrating its commitment to the country’s regions by holding such external meetings at least once a year. This year it’s the turn of the Canton of Geneva, and the President of the Confederation has declared innovation and diversity as the themes for the Council’s visit. CERN is delighted to have been selected by the Federal Council as the place in Geneva that embodies these two concepts.
I am very pleased that the Federal Council is holding its 16th extramural session at CERN. If Geneva is Switzerland’s window on the world, CERN is our window on the infinitely small and the infinitely fast. Another way of exploring the universe and understanding how our world works.
Ignazio Cassis, President of the Swiss Confederation
During their visit, the federal councillors met Fabiola Gianotti and the members of her Directorate. The Director-General presented the Laboratory and spoke with them, as well as with the members of the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva and the mayor of Meyrin, who joined the federal delegation at CERN after the Council’s meeting. The party then departed to continue the day’s programme with a meet-and-greet with the people of the canton.
Later in the day, the Director-General and the Directorate again welcomed Ignazio Cassis, President of the Confederation and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, accompanied by Viola Amherd, the federal councillor who heads the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport, and Viktor Rossi, Vice-Chancellor of the Confederation. The President was received at the Globe of Science and Innovation, where he had the opportunity to view the progress of the CERN Science Gateway construction works, and then visited the ATLAS experiment cavern and the LHC tunnel. Before leaving the site, the President signed the Visitors’ Book, bringing the eventful day to a close.