Relations Between Chile and ESO
10 June 1994
As announced in an earlier Press Release (eso9408), a high-ranking ESO delegation visited Santiago de Chile during the week of 24 - 28 May 1994 to discuss various important matters of mutual interest with the Chilean Government. It consisted of Dr. Peter Creola (President of ESO Council), Dr. Catherine Cesarsky (Vice-President of ESO Council), Dr. Henrik Grage (Former Vice-President of ESO Council) and Professor Riccardo Giacconi (ESO Director General), the latter accompanied by his advisers.
THE SUPPLEMENTARY TREATY BETWEEN CHILE AND ESO
Following a meeting with the ambassadors to Chile of the eight ESO member countries, the ESO delegation was received by the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carlos Figueroa, and members of his staff. The ESO delegation was pleased to receive assurances that the present Chilean Government, like its predecessors, will continue to honour all contractual agreements, in particular the privileges and immunities of this Organisation, which were laid down in the Treaty between ESO and Chile that was signed by the parties in 1963 and ratified the following year.
The discussions covered some aspects of the proposed Supplementary Treaty which has been under preparation during the past year. This included in particular the desire of the Chilean side to further increase the percentage of guaranteed time for Chilean astronomers at the future ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) and also the rules governing the installation by ESO member countries of additional telescopes at the ESO observatories in Chile.
ESO invited a Chilean delegation to visit the ESO Headquarters in Garching (Germany) later this year for the final adjustment of the text of the Supplementary Treaty, after which it should be possible to proceed rapidly with the signing and ratification by the Chilean Parliament and the ESO Council.
THE SITUATION AROUND PARANAL
The ESO delegation expressed its deep concern to the Chilean Government about the continuing legal questioning of ESO's privileges and immunities at the designated VLT site on the Paranal mountain south of the city of Antofagasta (see eso9407), and also around the ownership of the land. ESO is now very worried about the timely completion of this 500 million DEM project. Unless a clarification of this problem is achieved as soon as possible, it is unlikely that the current plan for the construction of the VLT observatory at Paranal can be maintained.
The ESO delegation expressed the opinion that these uncertainties must be removed, before the final negotiations about the above mentioned Treaty can proceed.
RECEPTION BY THE PRESIDENT OF CHILE
During its stay in Santiago, the ESO delegation was honoured to be received by the President of the Republic of Chile, Don Eduardo Frei Ruiz Tagle. ESO extended a warm invitation to the President to lay the cornerstone of the VLT observatory at Paranal later in 1994 at the appropriate moment. Twenty-five years ago, in 1969, the ESO La Silla observatory was inaugurated by his predecessor and father, Don Eduardo Frei Montalva.
DECISIONS BY THE ESO COUNCIL
The ESO delegation reported about the discussions in Santiago to the ESO Council, during its ordinary semi-annual session on June 7 - 8, 1994.
The Council noted with satisfaction the clear attitude expressed by the Chilean Government, especially what concerns ESO's privileges and immunities in the host country.
The ESO Council expects that the Chilean courts will also confirm these privileges and immunities.
The ESO Council expressed the hope that it will now be possible to arrive at a resolution of the outstanding issues. However, in view of the increasingly tight VLT schedule - it is planned to ship the first VLT building to Paranal in the month of September this year - the Council was also much concerned about any further delays. Council requested the ESO management to ensure that the authorities of the member countries will be kept closely informed about the further developments during the coming months.
The ESO Council Working Group on Relations between ESO and Chile will meet on June 29, 1994, to analyse the developments; it will report to Council immediately thereafter. Further underlining the importance of these issues for the Organisation and European Astronomy, Council resolved to meet during an extraordinary meeting on August 8 - 9, 1994. This will allow a thorough evaluation of the entire situation before ESO engages itself more fully at Paranal.