Particle physics research

Poland pushes CERN to sever ties with Russia

Supporting Ukraine means nuclear research powerhouse must suspend all deals with Russia, says secretary of state

The Polish government has urged other countries on the board of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, to cut the lab’s ties with Russia at a crucial meeting next week.

Cern is home to state-of-the-art nuclear physics research facilities, including the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator. Its member states are due to vote next week on suspending the lab’s international agreements with Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

“I am convinced that we have to do this,” Polish State Secretary for Science Wojciech Murdzek told EU research ministers on June 10.

He warned that CERN “cannot be held hostage to the authoritarian Russian regime”.

‘Difficult decision’

In March, the CERN Council voted to suspend Russia’s observer status as well as certain roles for individual researchers, including committee appearances. Now Murdzek wants the lab near Geneva to go further at the June 16 meeting.

Suspension of the international cooperation agreement with Russia would put a much greater freeze on Russian contributions and benefits from CERN’s infrastructure and research activities. Poland also wants the CERN agreements with Belarus to be suspended, because the country supported Russia’s aggression. Ties with the Joint International Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Russia should also be severed, Murdzek said.

Severing those ties would be “a very difficult decision”, but it is a decision that the CERN Board must make, he said.

Murdzek warned that the decision could lead to “higher costs” and delays at the headquarters of the Large Hadron Collider and site of many key discoveries in physics. But “member states will have to rise to the challenge,” he said, because nations “cannot make the same mistakes we did as we became increasingly dependent on Russia’s natural resources.”

Block votes

Murdzek was speaking as EU ministers adopted a statement condemning the Russian invasion, as well as positions on research assessment reform and R&D missions.

He said he hoped the declaration’s adoption meant that freezing Russian and Belarusian ties with CERN would be “purely a formality”, as 18 EU states also sit on CERN’s board, made up of 23 members, and only 16 votes are needed to pass. suspension.

“I ask all of you to ensure that your representatives on the CERN Council vote in accordance with what we adopted today,” Murdzek told the assembled EU representatives. “I know that other countries that are not EU members are also on our side.”

CERN told Research Professional News that previous actions taken by its Council “effectively prohibit any further activity with Russian and Belarusian institutes, as well as with JINR.”

He added: “Russia is not a CERN member state; there are currently about 1,000 Russian-affiliated researchers, and Russia contributes to the operation of the experiments in proportion to their participation. The suspension of the international cooperation agreement would lead to the termination of this participation.

Update 10/6 – This article has been updated with CERN’s comment.