Finland will become the eleventh member state of the European Southern
Observatory (ESO) [1].

Today, during a ceremony at the ESO Headquarters in Garching (Germany),
a corresponding Agreement was signed by the Finnish Minister of
Education and Science, Ms. Tuula Haatainen and the ESO Director
General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, in the presence of other high officials
from Finland and the ESO member states.

Following subsequent ratification by the Finnish Parliament of the ESO
Convention and the associated protocols [2], it is foreseen that
Finland will formally join ESO on July 1, 2004.

The full text of this Press Release, together with a Photo and a Video
of the signature, is available at

Uniting European Astronomy

The Finnish Minister of Education and Science, Ms. Tuula Haatainen,
began her speech with these words: “On behalf of Finland, I am happy
and proud that we are now joining the European Southern Observatory,
one of the most successful megaprojects of European science. ESO is
an excellent example of the potential of European cooperation in
science, and along with the ALMA project, more and more of global
cooperation as well.”

She also mentioned that besides science ESO offers many technological
challenges and opportunities. And she added: “In Finland we will try to

promote also technological and industrial cooperation with ESO, and we
hope that the ESO side will help us to create good working relations. I
am confident that Finland’s membership in ESO will be beneficial to
both sides.”

Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, ESO Director General, warmly welcomed the
Finnish intention to join ESO. “With the accession of their country to
ESO, Finnish astronomers, renowned for their expertise in many
frontline areas, will have new, exciting opportunities for working on
research programmes at the frontiers of modern astrophysics.”

“This is indeed the right time to join ESO”, she added. “The four 8.2-m
VLT Unit Telescopes with their many first-class instruments are working
with unsurpassed efficiency at Paranal, probing the near and distant
Universe and providing European astronomers with a goldmine of unique
astronomical data. The implementation of the VLT Interferometer is
progressing well and last year we entered into the construction phase
of the intercontinental millimetre- and submillimetre-band Atacama Large
Millimeter Array. And the continued design studies for gigantic
optical/infrared telescopes like OWL are progressing fast. Wonderful
horizons are indeed opening for the coming generations of European

She was seconded by the President of the ESO Council, Professor Piet
van der Kruit, “This is a most important step in the continuing evolution
of ESO. By having Finland become a member of ESO, we welcome a country
that has put in place a highly efficient and competitive innovation
system with one of the fastest growths of research investment in the EU
area. I have no doubt that the Finnish astronomers will not only make
the best scientific use of ESO facilities but that they will also
greatly contribute through their high quality R&D to technological
developments which will benefit the whole ESO community. ”


[1]: Current ESO member countries are Belgium, Denmark, France,
Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and
the United Kindgdom.

[2]: The ESO Convention was established in 1962 and specifies the goals
of ESO and the means to achieve these, e.g., “The Governments of the
States parties to this convention… desirous of jointly creating an
observatory equipped with powerful instruments in the Southern
hemisphere and accordingly promoting and organizing co-operation in
astronomical research…” (from the Preamble to the ESO Convention).