Celebrating CERN

Les 50 ans du CERN

50 years at the forefront of science

un demi-siècle à la pointe de la science

CERN 50th Anniversary Celebration
Tuesday, 19 October 2004
Meyrin site

Maria van der Hoeven
Minister of Education, Culture and Science
of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
(original version)

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to speak to you today. I do so on behalf of the president of the European Council, who is still recovering from severe illness.

The fiftieth anniversary of CERN is a special occasion. One that deserves to be celebrated. Because it is not an ordinary anniversary but the golden jubilee of an organisation which in its fifty years has generated an immense body of basic knowledge. And which has produced three Nobel Prize winners.

An organisation which has made so many breakthroughs in physics that it can rightfully claim that science repeatedly evokes new questions. An example of this is the Higgs Boson, which presumably gives mass to all matter. The "standard model" seems almost finished, yet with the Large Hadron Collider the search for the Higgs Boson can be continued. In 2007 to be precisely, when the Large Hadron Collider will be in operation. No one, however, knows what this search might lead to.  

More than anything else, CERN is an inspiring example of what European cooperation and joining forces can achieve. In the last fifty years, CERN has shown how Europe can set up large and complex research infrastructures that exceed the capacity of individual countries. CERN is also a model for centres of excellence. 

So I see CERN as an excellent example of cooperation and joining forces. Which are precisely the themes which we want to put on the research, innovation and technology agenda. Both at national level, and in the European Union.

And we are making progress. On a national level I would like to point at the Dutch Innovation Platform. This platform has been set up to stimulate innovative cooperation between private companies, universities and research institutes, and to join forces in the area of innovation. 

On a European level important steps have recently been taken. These include the Initiative for Growth and the Communication from the Commission on the future of European research and technology policy which we are currently discussing in the Council.

The Communication sets out the elements relevant to establishing a true European research area. And there are a lot of them. Among other things, European centres of excellence and European technological initiatives must be created. Europe must also be able to attract the best researchers. The European research area needs coordination of national programmes and should encourage mechanisms to promote excellence.

Last but certainly not least, Europe needs state-of-the-art infrastructures. CERN has been such an infrastructure for fifty years. And one can see what this has produced. Not only three Nobel Prize winners but also an invention we cannot even imagine doing without today - the world wide web. That has given us a taste for even more. That’s why we see developing more infrastructures like CERN as a real challenge. Maybe not as big but just as effective. Which is also why during the Informal Competitiveness Council we discussed how to better coordinate our efforts in the context of the European Union. I am pleased that the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures has now begun to develop a strategic roadmap for European infrastructures for the next ten years. 

The Communication on the future of European research and technology policy also mentions CERN. The Communication states that the ties between the European Union and intergovernmental organisations like CERN, ESO and EMBL are extremely important for developing the European research area. In the Competitiveness Council, we will be discussing whether and how the European Union can work more effectively with organisations like yours.

I expect that the Council in November will be able to draw initial conclusions about the Communication. Conclusions which will give guidance to the European Commission and the new Commissioner in drafting a proposal for the Seventh Framework Programme. In short, these are really exciting times.

But today we’re celebrating CERN’s fiftieth anniversary. By looking back at its accomplishments and honouring the people who achieved them.

But also  -and primarily- by setting our sights on the future.

In the Netherlands -and now I am speaking as a Dutch minister- we are joining in the celebrations to the full. Because if one thing has become clear, it is that Dutch particle physics owes a great debt to CERN and has in its turn contributed a fair share to CERN. We are celebrating the anniversary in the Netherlands with a scientific symposium and with special activities for youngsters.

Because we need young people for tomorrow’s breakthroughs in physics. I wish CERN and the physics community great success. Here’s to another fifty years!       

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