Letter to the prime minister about CERN

Letter to the prime minister about CERN

Has Turkey given up European Committee of Nuclear Research (CERN) membership to settle for the second-class status of “associate membership”?

Isn’t this something akin to giving up full membership during European Union accession negotiations to ask for a “privileged partnership”?

Some 34 Turkish scientists, all of them accelerator and particle physicists, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Oct. 13.

The letter states that Turkey had applied to CERN for full membership on Jan. 23, 2009, and even though 43 months have passed, nothing has happened.

It reads: “According to unconfirmed information, Turkey has given up full membership pursuit and instead has headed for associate-member status, which is not a part of the decision-making mechanism and does not allow for participation in several CERN opportunities…”

They have listed three areas in which this is detrimental to Turkey:

a) To become an associate member, a new application has to be processed. Serbia, Israel and South Cyprus have been accepted for full membership in two years. One of these countries, especially South Cyprus, will be able to veto Turkey’s associate membership.

b) CERN’s prestige, having found the Higgs particle and perhaps by winning new Nobel Prizes, has been increasing significantly. Not having full membership to CERN, in other words not being a host and equal member, would cost much more in the future.

c) Because there are many CERN membership applications from countries outside of Europe, toughening membership conditions and creating such alternatives as “privileged membership” are being developed. Turkey may lose the rights it gained with its 2009 application.

As you can see, while we are seeking associate membership, it is possible that we lose even that.

The second part of the letter is more technical, and outlines what we would lose if we abandon full membership and settle for associate membership.

a) Only full members participate in the International Network Committee that decides what to do about new technologies developed in CERN.

b) Full member countries have priority in technological licensing. Those licenses that full member countries do not take are offered to associate countries.

c) Only full members can make use of opportunities such as infrastructure and the Techno Park, benefiting from CERN’s knowledge and experience and obtaining CERN licenses free of charge for two to three years.

d) The revenue raised from CERN licenses are channeled primarily to support research done by member country companies.

e) CERN charges a royalty fee for the licenses it distributes and only member countries are provided with “reasonable conditions.”

We will lose all these opportunities if we become an associate member.

The letter concludes: “Associate membership would be extremely inadequate for a country that wants to be a full member of CERN with the aims of developing its industry, having a leading private sector in technology and creating employment…”

The signatory scientists submit, with respect to the authorization of the esteemed prime minister, that a negotiation delegation be immediately established so that “we do not lose the gains we have collected so far and to increase our country’s prestige as a regional power.”

The full text of the letter and the 34 signatory scientists can be found at:


I have a question for Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan:

Is it possible for us to close the foreign trade deficit without the “high value-added technological products” the scientists mention in their letter? If so, then why are we - just as we have held out on the EU train to Greece by giving up the full membership bid - now missing the CERN train by our own decision?

Taha Akyol is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Nov. 28. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.