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1963 - 2013: ILL celebrates 50 years of the Elysée Treaty.

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1963-2013: ILL celebrates 50 years of the Elysée Treaty

The 'Treaty of Friendship' paved the way for the French-German agreement that created the world’s flagship centre for neutron science

Today the Institute Laue-Langevin celebrates fifty years of the Elysée Treaty. The "Treaty of Friendship”, as it has become known, was created to promote Franco-German relations and establish a platform for communication and collaboration between the two nations. Indeed, it was in this new diplomatic and political context that the world's leading neutron source was established in Europe; the ILL was the first real manifestation in the scientific domain of the two countries’ new relationship.

The Treaty was drawn up on 22nd January 1963 and signed by the French President, General de Gaulle, and the German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. It soon became an influential force in Europe with the establishment of regular summits between respective Heads of State and Government, their Ministers of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Chiefs of Staff and high officials.

The Treaty proposed a number of areas for collaboration, including a commitment to increase cooperation between universities and scientific institutions. At this time there was a lot of interest in the building of Europe’s first dedicated high-flux neutron source. German physicist Heinz Maier-Leibnitz and French physicist Louis Néel were particularly passionate about the potential of neutron science. In light of the Treaty, Néel and his close friend Erwin Lewy-Bertaut, a fellow physicist of German origin, pushed for a new source to be jointly funded by the two countries and located in Grenoble, to take advantage of local expertise.

By the time the final decision to build ILL was made in 1966, it represented the first major Franco-German research collaboration of the time and remains the most successful scientific outcome of the Treaty. In 1973 France and Germany were joined by the United Kingdom in ownership of the ILL.

Today the ILL is an internationally-renowned scientific facility and the world’s flagship centre for neutrons science. It continues to supply the brightest beams of neutrons to research scientists from all over the world so they can probe materials down to the atomic scale. Its neutrons are used in scientific research, in areas as varied as healthcare, the environment and engineering, as well as improving our fundamental knowledge of how the world works.

Helmut Schober, Science Director at the ILL said: “The signing of the Treaty 50 years ago marked a significant moment not just between France and Germany but across Europe. From a scientific perspective, the ILL remains a forceful and emblematic example of the success and prosperity the two countries have enjoyed together since the signing of this historic document”.