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Latvia fulfills with the criteria to become an Associate Member state of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as acknowledged by the CERN Council on December 10, 2020. This authorizes CERN Director-General, Fabiola Gianotti, to open negotiations with Latvia on an association agreement with CERN. After signing the agreement and ratifying in the Latvian parliament, Latvia would become an Associate Member state of CERN as soon as 2021. Estonian parliament ratified such an agreement in December 2020. Lithuania has been an Associate Member state of CERN since 2018.
The Latvian economy must move towards high-value-added services and goods ― it is necessary to promote scientific development and such innovation that can be applied in industry. The status of an Associate Member state at the European Organization for Nuclear Research will open more opportunities for Latvian scientists and entrepreneurs to connect the research with new technologies. It will be a significant step towards the implementation of our country’s long-term objectives, believes the Prime Minister of Latvia Krišjānis Kariņš.
The three evaluation criteria
CERN Task Force (expert working group) visited Latvia in October 2020 to evaluate Latvia's readiness to become an Associated Member state of CERN. The evaluation was based on three main criteria:
The performance of Latvia in meeting the three criteria has been assessed over a five-year period, as well as with the future perspective ― evaluating country’s potential in short-term and long-term. In order to assess the fulfillment of these criteria, CERN delegation met with the Latvian Prime-Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister for Education and Science Ilga Šuplinska, parliament deputies, the management of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency, Riga Technical University (RTU) and the University of Latvia (LU), as well as with the management of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and representatives from such companies as SAF Tehnika , Baltic Scientific Instruments, and Dati Group, who are interested in cooperating with CERN.
Latvian side provided information on the current involvement of Latvian researchers in the scientific experiments at CERN, as well as on the capacity of Latvian industry, namely, whether there is a sufficient number of engineering and high-tech companies that could participate in CERN procurement processes and deliver their services or goods to CERN. After assessing of all of these aspects, CERN delegation has acknowledged that Latvia has fully met all three criteria.
A political will and a community of physicists
The report of the CERN expert working group, prepared after the visit to Latvia, concludes that the delegation has had a positive impression on the Latvian government’s and parliament representative’s understanding and their willingness to provide sufficient funding for the Latvia’s participation in CERN research activities to ensure a long-term engagement of the country in the European science citadel. It was also pointed out that Latvia has a clear insight about the benefits of the membership, including the contribution to national economy, science, and a positive impact on the country’s growth in general.
The CERN working group has also welcomed the development of the doctoral study programme «Particle Physics and Accelerator Technologies» by RTU and UL, which is to welcome the first cohort of students in the autumn of 2021. This programme will be one of the tools to ensure the advancement of high-energy particle physics in Latvia and will strengthen the community of this field of science in the country and in the Baltic region.
The report particularly emphasized the successful cooperation between RTU and UL, which is one of the indicators that CERN would have no doubts about the capability of Latvia to contribute to the scientific projects of CERN in the long-term.
Entrepreneurs are ready to cooperate with CERN
The CERN working group also ascertained the readiness of the Latvian industry to cooperate with the organization in offering their services. Latvia has internationally competitive companies with specialization in electronics, IT and other areas, and are able to participate in CERN procurement processes, which are used to supply the organization with the necessary services and equipment for the scientific work.
Similarly, the activities of the CERN National Contact Point in Latvia in coordinating and managing diverse activities were praised by the delegation. The function of the Contact Point is performed by the RTU Center of High Energy Physics and Accelerators Technologies.
As an important aspect of Latvia’s accession to CERN, the working group also mentioned the activities of the CERN Baltic group, considering it an important tool for the Baltic region's cooperation with CERN. This group is a currently unique regional body for scientific cooperation.
A step forward for science
Latvia's participation in CERN would be a significant step forward for Latvian science, as Latvia would join one of the world’s most prominent science centers and Latvian scientists would be able to participate in CERN research projects as full partners. Similarly, the entrepreneurs would be able to offer their services to CERN.
Five scientists from Latvia are already working at CERN. Four of them are participating in major high-energy physics CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) designed to observe and capture new phenomena in physics. Latvia works persistently to develop the field of High-Energy Physics in studies and research. An interdisciplinary national working group has been set up to coordinate the cooperation of the Latvian scientific institutions, government, and industry with CERN. Both the work of the group and the visit of the CERN working group in Latvia are coordinated by the CERN National Contact Point.
For more than 60 years, CERN has been the world’s leading scientific center for the world-class scientific discoveries.