In response to the Swiss ‘no’ to the referendum on ‘mass immigration’, the European Commission had swiftly taken measures to suspend cooperation with Switzerland in the areas of research and education. The fierce EU reaction against Switzerland strongly contrasts with the silence surrounding the EU-Russia Year of Science.
In Strasbourg on February the 26th European Commissioner László Andor spoke to the European Parliament, saying: “This core principle of the free movement of persons is a cornerstone of our relationship. It is a fundamental right. It is not simply ‘negotiable’, as some tend to believe.”
It’s all about Croatia
Reason for the Commission to act to promptly was that the Swiss Federal Council seemed to put the Swiss ‘no’ immediately into action. They refused to sign the already negotiated Protocol extending the free movement of persons agreement with the EU to its newest Member State: Croatia.
Andor said: “The Commission has been crystal-clear that we expect this extension as planned, and that we cannot accept different treatments between our Member States in this crucial field.” The Swiss government comes up with the result of their internal reflections on the Croatia-Protocol.
In a Swiss television interview Martin Schultz laments the fact that the young Swiss now have to pay the price for the politics of the Swiss People’s Party. He criticizes Commissioner Andor for , stating: “I have absolutely no understanding for the suspension of Swiss students from Erasmus+. Now it’s more necessary than ever that students travel abroad.” Swiss participation in Horizon 2020 on the other hand, he considers another case.
A lot of uncertainty
The job of Danièle Rod has become rather more difficult since her country voted against ‘mass immigration’ on February 9. She is the science and technology counsellor of the Swiss Mission to the European Union and receives much more questions nowadays. “There is a lot of rumor and uncertainty around cooperation with Swiss research institutions.”
Rod had been worried about the outcome of the referendum. “The polls had been showing this trend, but we were hoping that it would fall the other way. Researchers in Switzerland were disappointed by the strong and rapid response of the EU.” The upcoming European elections probably made the issue extra sensitive.
€4 billion ready
The Swiss applicants for the ERC starting grants can now turn to the Swiss National Research Foundation for a temporary alternative scheme, as the website of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI, shows.
Danièle Rod: “Our aim remains to be associated to Horizon2020. The Swiss parliament had already voted a bill setting aside €4 billion. Initially this was meant to fund the Swiss involvement in the European research programmes.” The money could now be used to directly fund Swiss researchers.
Erasmus died in Basel
In the same way the Swiss government will now take up the bill for young people who want to study abroad. This will however cost twice as much, as the government does not want to favour outgoing over incoming students and plans to fund both types in an Erasmus manner, explain Swiss students Lea Meister and Dominik Fitze.
“The referendum cannot be re-voted”, say Swiss students Lea Meister and Dominik Fitze. “The new immigration law on the basis of the referendum will be drafted before the summer. What the government can do is draft a proposal with quota high enough so that all people from the EU will be admitted.”
“You know, Erasmus died at Basel”, Lea Meister says.