After 66 years, Czechia terminates its membership in the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) on 31st December 2022. The Czech Republic’s leaving is a consequence of the military attack on Ukraine by the Russian Federation and geopolitical situation caused by the Russian Federation internationally – JINR is based on the territory of the Russian Federation, which is also the majority shareholder of this international organisation As a result of the conflict, Ukraine announced on 18th May 2022 its decision to terminate its membership in JINR, with Poland moving in the same direction. Slovakia and Bulgaria have ceased their cooperation with JINR. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) has also taken a similar step.
Termination of the Czech membership in JINR
In response to the Russian military aggression against Ukraine initiated on 24th February 2022 and the attack by Russian troops on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Czech Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Petr Gazdík decided on 4th March 2022 to discontinue the Czech Republic’s cooperation with JINR and to take steps to terminate the Czech membership in this international organisation. The proposal for the withdrawal of Czechia from JINR has been subject to an inter-ministerial procedure, after which the Government of the Czech Republic agreed with this step by its Resolution No. 466 of 1st June 2022 and submitted the proposal further to the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic for endorsement. The Chamber of Deputies discussed the proposal at its 31st meeting on 7th July 2022 and casted its vote in favour of the proposal already in the first reading. The Senate discussed the proposal at its 27th meeting on 20th July 2022, and also gave its assent to the withdrawal. The proposal to terminate the Czech membership in JINR was subsequently submitted to the President of the Czech Republic, who signed it on 16th August 2022. The subsequent co-signature by the Prime Minister completed the entire approval process.
JINR is an international organisation for research in nuclear and particle physics and their applications in other fields such as materials research or radiobiology. It is based in the city of Dubna in the Russian Federation, approximately 130 km north of Moscow, and its operations are more than 80% funded by the Russian Federation. JINR currently has 19 Member States (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam), but this number will obviously decrease due to the current geopolitical development. JINR was founded in 1956 in response to the establishment of CERN two years earlier. Czechoslovakia was one of the Founding Members of JINR. After the separation, the membership in JINR passed by legal succession to two successor states, i.e., Czechia and Slovakia.
Czech Republic’s membership
Entire generations of Czechoslovak, Czech and Slovak physicists grew up professionally in JINR, which was partly also due to the limited possibilities of other international cooperation, especially after 1968. Czechoslovakia, and subsequently also Czechia had a prominent position in JINR, as illustrated by the appointment of the Czechoslovak and Czech staff to senior positions in JINR. Prof. V. Votruba became the first Deputy Director of JINR and this position was successively also held by Prof. I. Úlehla, Prof. Č. Šimáně, Dr. M. Gmitro and Dr. Richard Lednický. Interested parties may read about JINR in the memoirs “Československá jaderná a částicová fyzika: Mezi SÚJV a CERN“ (“Czechoslovak Nuclear and Particle Physics: Between JINR and CERN”) by E. Těšínská or F. Lehar’s memoirs “O zlaté kleci a jiné vzpomínky“ („About the Golden Cage and Other Memories”).
Both the scientific benefits of the Czech cooperation with JINR and the success of Czech companies in JINR’s public procurements in recent years have been unquestionable, as also repeatedly confirmed by international assessments of benefits and impacts of the Czech membership in international R&D organisations, regularly organised by MEYS. However, in May 2021, the Russian Federation placed the Czech Republic on its list of unfriendly countries (jointly with USA), whereupon this list was expanded this year to the current 48 countries. By invading Ukraine, another Member State of JINR, the Russian Federation has violated not only its international obligations, but also international law as such, and has further escalated its aggressive rhetoric against the Czech Republic. Under these circumstances, it is no longer possible to collaborate with the Russian Federation, including through an international organisation such as JINR. Continued cooperation would only lead to the legitimisation of the Russian political regime and the Russian actions at the international level. Moreover, the cooperation with JINR would be severely limited, if not completely terminated, as a result of the sanctions adopted against the Russian Federation by the international community. The budgetary resources thus saved by MEYS will be utilised to support the Czech large research infrastructures and to possibly expand the Czech involvement in international research infrastructures to help mitigate the impact of the termination of the Czech Republic’s membership in JINR on the research opportunities for Czech scientists.