Switzerland is poised to oversee a €200 million investment in the Western Balkans in the form of an ambitious science and research project.
Drawing on the so-called “science diplomacy experience”, the Swiss government will work on the South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies, the first large research infrastructure in the region.
Eight countries will benefit from the initiative including Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro.
The new lab will work on advances in particle physics in medical technologies via proton and ion beams. While the design phase of the project is complete, agreements still need to be reached on a legal entity and where it will be built.
Switzerland will oversee the governance structure as well as a competition for the location of the new facility. The country has extensive experience in setting up similar research centers, being home to CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.
Sanja Damjanovic, a Montenegrin physicist, said, “The Western Balkans urgently needs large-scale research infrastructures.” She added that science diplomacy must come above all local political differences, and it should outlive multiple government changes.
In terms of where the money will come from, it’s expected that EU cohesion funds for the Western Balkans will cover much of it, along with pre-accession EU funds and contributions from member states.