Ragnar Stien, Norway

Ragnar Stien

The creation of a forum for all European neurologists

A contribution to the history of EFNS.

by Ragnar Stien, Norway


It is to be underlined, that this presentation is very personal and the sole responsibility of the author. It does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Norwegian Neurological Association.

I was elected president of the Norwegian Neurological Association in November 1989. In 1988 and 1989 we had heard rumors about an initiative to create a European Neurological Society; particularly about a meeting at a congress in Prague in April 1989 (no Norwegian official delegates) were said to have not been well organized and resolutions had tried to be passed in a very not democratic way. I was informed about the ongoing work for the first time in June 1990. The chairman of The Scandinavian Neurological Association, Professor Olaf B Poulson of Copenhagen, sent a letter to all Nordic Neurological Associations about the status of work (1) and a resolution supported by the delegates from all five Scandinavian countries (2). He included a report, in Danish, from the meeting in Prague in April 1989 (3). This report was somewhat critical about ideas brought forward at the meeting.

About the same time I got letters from Professor Serratrice (4,6) were he invited the chairmen of all European Neurological Associations to meet in France and discuss the matter. I answered him positively (5,7).We had at that time received the proposed Constitution and bye-laws of the “Pan European Society of Neurology (PESN)”. It was very obvious to us that we could not support this creation, and we got information particularly from Denmark (Jes Olesen), Sweden (Barbro Johanson) and Finland (Jorma Palo) that they had about the same objections towards this constitution as we had. We tried to make it clear that we supported a European Neurological Society, but only if:

It was formed as a federation of the European Neurological Societies.

No Personal members or para-neurological institutions should be accepted as ordinary members.

Delegates to this Federation should be elected in a democratic way by the national societies.

The national delegates should elect the officers of the federation.

No “ex-officio” officers should be accepted.

The number of officers should be reduced (the bye laws suggested 6 Vice Presidents in addition to a President elect).


Later, we added:

The European Federation should be organized by the European Neurological Associations with no interference from WFN. Later the possible Federation could seek sponsorship from WFN as the only regional European representative.

The meeting in Marseilles November 9th 1990 was in many ways very constructive and credit should be given to Prof Serratrice for arranging it. Somewhat confusing is the different minutes that were distributed after the meeting:

  1. The most reliable one is the proposal signed by all delegates present in Marseilles. This proposal was formulated by Professor Frackowiak and strongly supported by Professor Olesen and myself (8).
  2. The French organizers sent out a set of minutes (9) that were opposed by me and probably by some of the other present (I know Professor Olesen made his own comments).
  3. Professor Gerstenbrand circulated his impressions from the meeting, and I had no great problems with accepting them.
  4. As the confusion seemed to continue (none of the groups elected in Marseilles to improve/change the bye-laws and constitution come into work), I sent a letter to all presidents of the European Neurological Associations asking for their comments on 3 specific questions. I enclosed my version of the minutes from the Marseilles-meeting (12) and the proposal (8). I got nine answers and they all agreed that we should create a Federation that the national delegates should work elect a small number of officers and that we, the Europeans should work this out without interference from WFN. Only the German Association was willing to accept other members than the national associations. I include some of the typical answers (13,14,15).

As no progress was made by the groups elected in Marseilles, the presidents of the Scandinavian Neurological Societies met in Copenhagen in April 1991. During a couple of days discussions, Professor Jes Olesen made a terrific work, took down our ideas and changed the bye-laws and constitution of PESN in a way we found correct and acceptable. Later the corrected version and a letter (16) were circulated to all European Neurological Associations. I am proud to state that this version, with a few changes, was accepted as constitution and bye-laws of EFNS when it was founded officially in Vienna in December the same year.

Later I have always had a never failing believe that EFNS would be a success. My thoughts about the organization could be summarized in a letter to Professor Gerstenbrand in July 1992 (17) where I also put forward the suggestion of “travelling courses”. As far as I understand, similar courses have turned out to be a success within EFNS. I have not worked extensively within the EFNS-organization after -92. This is partly because my term as President of the Norwegian Association ended in Dec 1994, partly because I Had a lot to do with the arrangement of the first “Brain Year” in Europe in Norway in 1995 and partly because I got heavily involved in the problems in the Balkans and was for months in 1993 and 1994 “imprisoned” in Sarajevo during the siege of that city.

I do hope my comment can be of some interest. If needed, I still have other documents from the founding time of the EFNS including different versions of the much debated bye-laws.


(the documents 1-17 can be viewed upon request at the EFNS Headoffice or sent as pdf-file via email.)