Science diplomacy: Switzerland supports dialogue to create research centre in south-eastern Europe
Bern, 13.09.2021 - On Monday 13 September, Switzerland hosted a high-level conference in Bern as part of the South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST) project. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis attended the conference alongside seven ministers and representatives from ten countries of south-eastern Europe. The SEEIIST project seeks to develop a regional centre of excellence in south-eastern Europe for biomedical research into cancer therapy. At the event, the head of the FDFA restated Switzerland's readiness to facilitate dialogue between the various partner countries for the creation of such a facility.
Switzerland had agreed at the request of the SEEIIST Steering Committee to organise a high-level meeting between the project stakeholders. Some seven ministers and representatives of SEEIIST member countries met in Bern on Monday to discuss the creation of a new research centre in south-eastern Europe. The facility, which will share CERN's founding principles, will be dedicated to nuclear biomedical research. It will specialise in the development of cutting-edge technology for the treatment of certain types of cancer.
By supporting the dialogue to create the SEEIIST facility, Switzerland is using science diplomacy to pursue its foreign policy goals. In his speech, Ignazio Cassis emphasised the importance of this kind of diplomacy and explained why the FDFA was keen to support the dialogue. "As an innovative country and home to a large scientific community, Switzerland has the assets and credibility to play this facilitating role," he said.
This is also the kind of project which the Federal Council seeks to encourage through its Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23.
Mr Cassis was joined at the high-level event by the state secretary for education, research and innovation, Martina Hirayama, and the special representative for science diplomacy, Ambassador Alexandre Fasel.
Two working groups created
At the meeting, SEEIIST asked Switzerland to chair two working groups in which all member countries will be represented. One working group will be in charge of determining the legal status of the research centre. The other will set out the criteria to select a location. CERN and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) are also key contributors to the discussions. Today's meeting was attended by Fabiola Gianotti, director general of CERN, and Professor Leonid Rivkin, deputy director of the PSI.
Project bringing together ten countries
Proposed in late 2016 by former CERN director general Professor Herwig Schopper, the SEEIIST project received its first official political support from the government of Montenegro in March 2017. A declaration of intent signed at CERN in October 2017 established SEEIIST as a joint regional initiative between Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Republic of Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia. Croatia and Greece are members with observer status.
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