Swiss fear Horizon Europe exclusion as Brussels talks break down

Long-running negotiations between Brussels and Berne have stalled, risking a repeat of 2014, when the country was shut out of EU research

五月 19, 2021
EU, Germany, France and Switzerland
Source: iStock

Swiss universities have warned that the country’s researchers could be excluded from Horizon Europe unless the country breaks a deadlock in negotiations over its wider relationship with the European Union.

They fear a repeat of 2014, when the country was shut out of the research programme’s predecessor, Horizon 2020, after Swiss voters backed a referendum to curb EU immigration.

Now, with talks on an “institutional framework agreement” stalled, the country could again be prevented from participating.

“The EU has clearly signalled that it considers progress towards the conclusion of a Framework Agreement to be a prerequisite for Switzerland’s participation in the research and education programmes,” a statement from Swissuniversities, an umbrella body, warned this week.

“The Swissuniversities board calls on the Federal Council to avoid by all means the exclusion of Swiss researchers and students from these research and education programmes and to put relations with the EU on a permanent footing,” the group said.

Berne and Brussels have been trying to hammer out an overarching “institutional framework agreement” since 2014, in an attempt to replace and consolidate the dozens of deals done between the EU and Switzerland.

But progress has foundered on fears that a new agreement could drive down Swiss wages and allow “welfare tourism” by EU nationals.

As a result, “discussions on Swiss participation [in Horizon Europe] are suspended”, warned University of Geneva rector Flückiger Yves on Twitter.

“Without an institutional framework agreement, Swiss research would lose its equal access to the most important international research network,” Swissuniversities warned.

The body said the damage done by the 2014 exclusion was “still being felt today”.

“Researchers from Switzerland were involved in significantly fewer international projects and received less funding from the EU,” it said. “In addition, Switzerland lost its international appeal as a centre of research, education and innovation.”

A repeat of that situation “must be avoided by all means”, the universities warned.



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