In what is regarded as a major victory for the Macedonian government, a delegation headed by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski signed a co-operation agreement with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) on Monday (April 27th) in Geneva.
The pact "opens up opportunities for education and research as well as for the receipt of grants, equipment, transfer of knowledge and technology", explained Gruevski.
It provides a framework for Macedonia's long-term participation in experimental and theoretical physics, engineering, detection technology applications and computing.
Macedonian students and scientists will now be able to attend various CERN schools -- such as for accelerators and computing -- to study, train and conduct research. This summer, the first group of Macedonians will visit the prestigious research centre.
CERN Director-General Rolf-Dieter Heuer -- who signed the agreement with Gruevski -- hailed it as a great chance for Macedonian researchers to contribute to the development of their country and the world.
Macedonia has paid greater attention to science in recent years. It has doubled its spending on education, opened several new colleges and raised student enrollment quotas. The government even paid tuition at the Skopje-based Ss. Cyril and Methodius University physics department for scientists who can later perfect their knowledge at CERN.
However, Macedonian scientists believe the government can do more. Last year, it allotted about 2.5m euros for science and research, and the EU awarded the country 6m euros for that purpose.
Aspiring Macedonian researchers can vie for grants from two EU programmes: 1) FP7, the EU's 2007-2013 Framework Programme to encourage research and technical development, and 2) the Competitiveness & Innovation Framework Programme (CIP).
Two scientists, Zlatko Dimcovski and Jovan Mitrevski, are rare Macedonians with long-term work experience at CERN. Dimcovski -- a CERN veteran of 42 years -- said it was a boon for Macedonia to gain all of CERN's privileges without having to contribute financially.
Established in 1954, CERN is the biggest and one of the most prestigious research centres in the world. It began its work as one of Europe's first joint ventures but today numbers 20 member states and collects 751m euros annually in membership fees.
Gruevski said he hopes Macedonia will upgrade its status in CERN after a certain period of time.