«Medium-Range Weather Prediction Austin Woods Medium-Range Weather Prediction The European Approach The story of the European Centre for Medium-Range ...»
The language issue was discussed often and at length. At the important meeting of COST Senior Officials on 5–6 March 1973 when the location of the Headquarters was decided, the Italian delegation opened a lengthy discussion on languages by stating that the Italian government maintained its reservation on the wording of Article 1(6). The inclusion of Italian as an official language was a matter of principle and the Italian government attached great importance to it. The Belgian delegation had a reservation on the use of Dutch (Belgium has French and Dutch as official languages). The Netherlands delegation stated that if Italian were included, the Dutch government would associate itself with the Belgian reservation. The German delegate could not accept five official languages of equal value in the Convention. The Spanish delegation pointed out that organisations like ELDO, ESRIN and CERN used only French and English. It added: “If the Centre had to have additional languages, why not Spanish?” The Yugoslav The Convention 51 delegate stated that if Italian and Dutch were to be official languages, then he would have to enter a reservation in favour of the use of Serbo Croat. The final wording in the Convention was agreed at a later meeting. According to Article 1(6) the Centre has five official languages: Dutch, English, French, German and Italian, and three working languages: English, French and German.
There is simultaneous translation to and from the five official languages at sessions of the Council. Some documents are translated into the five languages. The three working languages English, French and German are used at meetings of some Committees of the Council, and many documents are provided in these three languages. For other Committees “one language only” is used. This diplomatic phrase avoids specifying English, the language in fact used.
Article 2 lays down the objectives of the Centre. While “medium-range weather forecasts” are referred to, “medium-range” is not defined in the Convention, in spite of talk in the planning phase of “forecast periods of 4 to 10 days”. Agreeing on the definition proved to be surprisingly difficult, not only on scientific grounds, but also for practical or quasi-political reasons. A rigid definition of the overlap between short- and medium-range prediction, which could perhaps be considered to vary with geographic location or season, and which different services with different computing and scientific resources might wish to define differently, would have been considered unacceptable.
It was not until 1986 that Council was able to agree on a definition, in the context of its adoption of a long-term strategy for the Centre. It then agreed with a proposal from its Scientific Advisory Committee that “the separation between short range prediction to be performed at the National Meteorological Services and medium range prediction to be performed at
ECMWF is both logical and practical” and went on:
The medium range should be considered the time scale beyond a few days in which the initial conditions are still crucially important.
This excluded for example climate prediction — another potentially awkward quasi-political problem! However, the text continued: “there appears to be no justification for separating the scientific problems associated with medium and so-called extended range prediction”.
The lack of definition proved useful to the Council in implementing the Convention. We shall see that the Centre was able to extend its activities to monthly and seasonal prediction as the science and technology developed.
In Article 3 we find that the Centre may conclude co-operation agreements with States. Looking ahead to the interesting wording of Article 23,
52 Chapter 5we find that membership of the Centre was open only to the 19 States that took part in drafting the Convention. Early drafts of the Convention stated that “any European State which is not a Signatory to the Convention may accede thereto”. It was not until the eighth preliminary draft dated 17 July 1972 that we find the much more restrictive text appearing: “any European State which is not a Signatory and which took part in the ministerial conference held in Brussels on 22 and 23 November 1971 may accede thereto”.
By October 1972, the restrictive wording of the final version of Article 23
After the entry into force of this Convention, any State which is not a Signatory and is mentioned in the Annex may accede to this Convention, subject to the consent of the Council...
The States “mentioned in the Annex” are those “which took part in the drafting of the Convention”.
This closing, or restriction, of membership appears to be unique for such an international organisation. Documentary evidence does not show the reason for this restrictive criterion — at least the writer has not been able to find any. However, it would be reasonable to assume that this is not unrelated to the fact that the work leading to establishment of the Centre and the drafting of the Convention was under way during a particularly difficult period of the cold war. For example, in 1968, the Communist Party leader in Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek, decided to bring about a Socialist democratic revolution. The efforts of the Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union failed to stop Dubcek from carrying out his reform plans. Troops from the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic invaded Czechoslovakia on 20 August 1968. In this context, it is perhaps understandable that the States that established the Centre were mindful of their desire to ensure that the States of what was then “Eastern Europe” were to be excluded from membership. For the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic was perhaps a particular consideration.
At a meeting in WMO, the delegation from the USSR asked that Russia as a European country could become a member of this planned “European” organisation. The representative of France, Mr Bessemoulin, responded that he would not object to this, if he could become a member of all organisations of the communist block dealing with Europe! Laughter effectively closed this line of questioning.
The wording of Article 23 was to prove to be a really awkward problem for the Centre in later years, when the cold war ended and states such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltic States and others from the The Convention 53 region applied for membership of the Centre. The co-operation agreements allowed by Article 3 went some way to helping the Centre meet their requirements. The Council later decided to amend the Convention to allow other States to become Member States — see below.
In Article 4, the Member States give to Council the powers and the duty to implement the Convention. We find in Article 4(2) that one of the Member State representatives should be a representative of his “national meteorological service”, while Article 2(1)(e) has an objective to make available the results of the Centre’s work in the most appropriate form to the “meteorological offices of the Member States”. This is an interesting distinction, since the latter term can perhaps be taken to include more than the National Meteorological Services. The Council makes the output of the Centre available to all in the Member States, and indeed to the entire world, in various forms, and especially via the Internet. However, “making available the results of the Centre’s work in the most appropriate form” has not been easy or straightforward. We shall consider this in Chapter 18.
Article 9 defines the Director as the Centre’s chief executive officer, responsible to the Council. Article 10 refers to the staff. Note that the “recruitment of staff shall be based on personal qualifications, account being taken of the international character of the Centre”. We shall deal with staff matters in more detail in Chapter 19.
Article 13 refers to the payment of Member States’ contributions. The States fund the Centre pro rata their wealth, measured until 1999 by their Gross National Product (GNP), and thereafter by Gross National Income (GNI), which had replaced GNP in economic usage. The scale of contributions is revised every three years to reflect the changing wealth of the States.
From the beginning the four biggest contributors to the Centre’s budget have been Germany 21% in 1973 becoming 23% in 2005, France 20% becoming 16%, UK 17% becoming 16% and Italy 12% becoming 13%. Between them these four have been contributing about 70% of the total budget through the years.
Ireland was the smallest contributor: 0.5% in 1973, 0.9% in 2005 (evidence of the Celtic tiger!) — until Luxembourg joined in July 2002:
0.2%. By Article 13(3) a late joiner has to pay a sum towards the costs already met by the existing States.
Article 18 allows the Council by two-thirds majority vote to propose amending the Convention. An amendment will not enter into force until it has been accepted by all Member States.
Article 19 allows a Member State to denounce the Convention. However, the Convention makes no provision for a Member State simply to cease to exist, and that is what happened to the Socialist Federal Republic of
54 Chapter 5Yugoslavia (SFRY), one of the signatory states of the Convention. In June 1992, in accordance with a UN Resolution, the Council instructed the Director to suspend the telecommunications connection with Belgrade. This technical move did nothing to remove the SFRY from the list of Member States.
ECMWF is an independent international organisation. Any decision taken by the Council on, for example, the succession to the SFRY, would have set a precedent with far-reaching implications. So on the revenue side of the budget for the years 1993 to 2001 there was listed a contribution due from that State, which the Centre knew it would never receive. The EU had the duty to notify all Member States when Luxembourg joined; how could it inform the SFRY? This wholly unsatisfactory situation continued year after year. In June 2001, the Council was considering amending the Convention.
This would require the approval of all Member States. Council finally decided that the SFRY “has ceased to be a party to this Convention” and passed a resolution to that effect.
And for the record: there is only one minor typographical error in the English version of the Convention. Article 17(1) has the phrase “interpretation of application”. It should read: “interpretation or application”. Praise is due to the skill of the typists in the years before word-processing!
Norway took part in drafting the Convention, and so was entitled to become a Member State from the date the Convention came into force.
However, in a letter of 12 October 1979 from Wiin-Nielsen to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, he notes that “the Norwegian Government decided in 1973 that it was unable to sign the Convention”. Why was this?
Both Prof Ragnar Fjørtoft, Director of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute at that time, and Prof Arnt Eliassen from the University of Oslo, advised the Ministry in charge of the Institute, then the Ministry of Church, Education and Science, not to join ECMWF. Eliassen had spent some time in the USA — he visited the Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton as part of a research team for the academic year 1948–49. He also visited the University of California at Los Angeles and MIT. Both Fjørtoft and Eliassen played important roles in 1948–50 in the work leading to the first integration of the barotropic equation, a significant milestone in the development of Numerical Weather Prediction.
Their advice was based on their interpretation of Lorenz’ now wellknown theory on the predictability of non-linear systems, the “butterfly effect”. They were of the opinion that the weather simply could not be predicted ten days ahead. Although their interpretation was at least arguable, they were very reputable scientists and their advice carried great weight in the Ministry. Later Directors of the Meteorological Institute, Prof A. Langlo The Convention 55 and Prof A. Grammeltvedt, were unable to change the opinion of this Ministry. In his later years, Eliassen was somewhat reluctant to discuss the matter, suggesting that he realized that his advice had not been the best.
Sometimes, perhaps, deep insight can lead to an unwise decision!
On a scientific level, good relations were maintained between Norway and the Centre. In fact, Eliassen was one of the main lecturers at the third ECMWF Seminar in September 1977.
Through the years the ECMWF Director and Council made many formal and informal efforts to convince Norway to join. When Norway finally became a Member State in 1989 it was due to an intervention by the Environment Minister in the Cabinet, to which the Norwegian Meteorological Institute does not report. Norway had been refused permission to participate in a research project on the Antarctic ozone hole. The reason given was that this project made substantial use of ECMWF data, and Norway was not a Member State. The refusal was perhaps very much associated with the desire of the international community, and many meteorologists in Norway, to change Norway’s non-membership status; the staff of the Institute had by now given up trying to convince its own Ministry.
Anton Eliassen, the son of Arnt Eliassen, was at that time Deputy Director of the Meteorological Institute. With his connections to the scientific community of atmospheric chemistry, he was kept informed of developments.
Prof Henning Rodhe of Stockholm University, the ozone project leader, and Prof Ivar Isaksen at Oslo University, were keen for Norway to join the Centre, and, with others in this complex political situation, played key roles.
The Environment Minister was Sissel Rønbeck. She was made aware of this rather serious rebuff to Norway in 1987 while she was in Montreal signing the Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer — the “Montreal Protocol”. As soon as she arrived home she took the matter up in the Cabinet. The higher officials in the Ministry of Church, Education and Science, who were still against joining, found themselves circumvented, and Norway was welcomed as a Member State on 1 January 1989.