ECR rebuffs proposed venue change, keeps Congress in Vienna for 2002

August 16, 2000

Vienna will host the European Congress of Radiology in 2002, but some French and Belgian radiologists continue to strongly criticize this decision. The ECR’s executive committee voted July 1 to stick with Vienna, despite public concerns about

Vienna will host the European Congress of Radiology in 2002, but some French and Belgian radiologists continue to strongly criticize this decision.

The ECR’s executive committee voted July 1 to stick with Vienna, despite public concerns about far-right involvement in Austria’s government and statements that an alternative venue was preferred (SCAN, 3/1/00). Plans to hold ECR 2003 in another European city now seem doubtful.

“Unless there is a venue that offers the same cost-effective service and facilities as Vienna, a change is unlikely in the near future,” said Prof. Dr. Rolf Guenther, president of ECR 2000.

Economic considerations were the decisive factor behind the announcement, Guenther said. Moving the ECR to either of the proposed sites, in Brussels or Barcelona, would have considerably increased the cost to delegates.

“Since our aim is to reduce prices for participants and make the congress even more attractive rather than increase costs, there was absolutely no other choice,” said Guenther.

ECR organizers took into account the financial constraints felt by prospective delegates, especially those from Central and Eastern Europe. This year’s meeting attracted 278 Hungarian doctors, 221 Poles, 166 Russians, 150 Czechs, and 131 Romanians. ECR 2001 will be shortened by half a day and held between Friday and Tuesday (March 2-6), allowing more participants to take advantage of cheaper weekend airfares.

The General Assembly transferred responsibility for deciding the venue of the annual congress to the executive committee after a vote at this year’s General Assembly meeting.

Prof. Danielle Balériaux, head of neuroradiology at the Erasme Hospital in Brussels, believes that the organizers were swayed by pressure from manufacturers, who are anxious that the conference not move too far from emerging markets to the east. She acknowledged that it will be cheaper for radiologists from these countries to travel to Vienna, where the Congress has been held since 1991, but she remains suspicious of the ECR’s motives.

“Industry is money,” she said. “I am disappointed that this decision has been made for business reasons.”

Some of her French and Belgian colleagues boycotted ECR 2000 over worries about the involvement of the Freedom Party in Austria’s coalition government. Balériaux attended this year’s congress to express her views and disapproval of the Austrian government, but she remains unhappy with the ECR’s handling of her concerns and with the organizers’ apparent reluctance to address fellow radiologists’ fears that going to Vienna would be tantamount to accepting the politics of the far right.

Balériaux has vowed to stay away from future congresses.

“We, as scientists, have to express ourselves,” she said. “We cannot ignore the political situation.”