Following the proposal (1990) of several nuclear physicists from the Niels Bohr Institute, the Community of European theoretical nuclear physicists was invited to discuss the opportunity of founding a European (and in fact international) Centre. This idea was greeted with enthusiasm. After two years of public discussions and appropriate referendums, various groups were invited to formulate specific proposals, and a Steering Committee was nominated to evaluate them.
Specific proposals were elaborated by groups in Denmark, Holland, Italy (two proposals: one from INFN in Legnaro (Padua) and one from the nuclear physics group of the Physics Department of Trento), and CERN.
A careful scrutiny of various projects was undertaken. European delegates convened in Orsay-Paris in 1992. Given the scientific quality of the project, the logistics provided and the local financial support assured, the nuclear physics community was practically unanimous in its choice of the Trento project.
The European Centre for Theoretical Studies in Nuclear Physics and Related Areas (ECT*) was founded on behalf of the European nuclear physicists community, by the Istituto Trentino di Cultura (ITC) in January 1993 and overseen by Prof. Renzo Leonardi.
In February 1996 a meeting of the European nuclear physics community was convened to evaluate the first three years of activity of the Centre. ECT* underwent a critical review; an evaluation committee was elected and asked to produce an evaluation report.
In December 1996 the international evaluation of the Centre was completed and the evaluation report produced. Since then steps have been taken to obtain from European Institutions formal recognition of the European role of ECT*.
The formal recognition of the European role of the Centre has been completed by an agreement of mutual understanding with the European Science Foundation (ESF) Associated Committee Nuclear Physics European Coordination Committee (NuPECC), an agreement ratified by the ESF in autumn 1997.
Bilateral agreements of collaboration have been signed with the Russian-Nordic-British Theory (RNBT) collaboration for Radioactive Nuclear Beam Physics (JINR-Dubna, RRC-KI-Moscov; UiB-Bergen, NBI-Copenhagen, CTH/UiG-Göteborg; SCNP U-Surrey-Guildford); the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (Trieste), the Physics Department of the University of Adelaide, the Institute of Physics (Belgrade), and the Physics Department of the University of Perugia (AMS Collaboration with the Cosmion Laboratory, Moscow).
An important step in efforts to ensure direct support from European National funding agencies was taken when representatives of the agencies of the three largest users of the Centre agreed to convene at ECT* to discuss the future funding. At the meeting which was held in January 1998 the representatives of BMBF (Germany), CEA and IN2P3 (France) and INFN (Italy) agreed to propose to their national funding agencies that they provide a regular yearly contribution, in order to flank the local financial contribution. This was as an initial step of towards a broader co-operative effort of the European nations participating in the field of nuclear physics and related areas. NuPECC has agreed to help in co-ordinating this European effort.