Swiss-based researchers will no longer be able to apply for European Research Council grants following its referendum decision to restrict immigration from other EU member states, the European Commission has confirmed.
Following the 9 February referendum, Switzerland declined to sign a protocol extending free movement to Croatians. The EU responded by breaking off negotiations on the country’s participation as an “associate member” of Horizon 2020 and the Erasmus+ student exchange programme.
Associate countries are non-EU members who participate in European programmes as full members in return for accepting EU rules, including on the free movement of people. Switzerland was an associate country in previous framework programmes and was very successful. In the most recent ERC call, for its Consolidator grants, only the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands were awarded more grants.
In a statement issued on 26 February, following a debate in the European Parliament, the commission says negotiations on Switzerland’s participation as an “associate country” in Horizon 2020, which officially began on 1 January this year, “could not be completed”.
It will now be deemed a “third country”, at least for 2014, which means its universities and businesses can still participate in Horizon 2020 programmes, including Marie Curie Actions, but will not automatically be eligible for funding and will not count towards the minimum number of participants required for a project. Swiss-based researchers will also be unable to apply for ERC grants.
László Andor, EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, told the European Parliament that further negotiations would be put on hold until Switzerland signed the protocol on Croatian free movement.
“In the absence of an international agreement on determining the conditions for Switzerland’s association to Horizon 2020, Switzerland does not participate in this programme as an associated country,” he said.
“As for Erasmus+, Switzerland has now missed the time for the 2014 grant award decisions. This means that in 2014, Switzerland will not participate in Erasmus+ on equal footing with member states as initially envisaged and its participation will be limited to cooperation activities as with any other third country.”