| The European VLBI Network (EVN) Consortium Board of Directors (CBD) met on 25 October 2016 in Irbene (Latvia). The Chairman (who is Rene Vermeulen of ASTRON) recalled the recent CBD decision taken by electronic consultation to welcome VIRAC (Ventspils International Radio Astronomy Centre) as a full member of the EVN; this was confirmed with round of applause.
The CBD heard about the latest technical progress, and the successful participation of the Irbene 32-meter telescope in recent EVN sessions at several frequencies. After lunch, the CBD was given a comprehensive guided tour in, on and around the telescope (top image). General admiration was expressed for the remarkable achievements of the VIRAC team, assisted by EVN friends from many places, in refurbishing this Soviet-vintage facility. The eventful day also included a pleasant dinner in Ventspils, and finally an interesting “no-low-gears” bus ride back to the hotel in Jurmala (where the Executive session was held the next morning).
A brief ceremony and press conference was held on 26 October 2016 in Riga, in the presence of Ms. Diana Laipniece [apparently no relative of Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibni(t)z], representing the Latvian Ministry of Science and Education. The importance of the EVN milestone for VIRAC was explained, and linked to the wider growth of the scientific and technological capacity of Latvia. Rene Vermeulen, as Chair of the EVN CBD, and Dr. Karlis Kreslins, Acting Rector of the Ventspils University College to which VIRAC belongs, signed a document confirming VIRAC's accession to the EVN (bottom image). A second crucial part of the event, involving several other participants, was preparing for a conclusion to be reached on 15 November; this will no doubt be reported in another AJDI soon. Finally, the event at the ministry was an important opportunity to draw attention to the ongoing EC-Twinning project "BALTICS", in which ASTRON and the University of Manchester provide training for VIRAC staff, focused on LOFAR and eMERLIN technology and science. Indeed, VIRAC is striving to acquire funding to build and operate a LOFAR station and become a member of the ILT; we fervently hope for success in that endeavour.