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In 2014, Switzerland’s full membership to the Erasmus+ programme was suspended after the country approved an initiative contravening the EC-Switzerland Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons. Since then, Switzerland has been adopting an interim solution – the Swiss-European Mobility Programme (SEMP) – that enables Swiss education institutions to continue to take part in cooperation projects with European partners. Five months ago, the Federal Council agreed on prolonging until 2020 the one-year extension of the interim solution adopted in September 2016. As written in the Federal Council’s dispatch presented to the Swiss Parliament in April this year, the further extension will serve as to optimise the promotion of mobility activities offered by the interim programme. In the same message, Movetia – one of ACA’s Swiss members – has been appointed as the main responsible agency for implementing pertinent promotion actions and for supporting the strategic development of the programme in cooperation with European organisations. To this end, CHF 11.1 million (approx. EUR 9.7 million) are to be allocated to Movetia, out of a total amount of CHF 114.5 million (approx. EUR 99.8 million) for the whole programme.
Compared to the previous SEMP, the budget has undergone a significant decrease. At the same time, also the number of non-Swiss universities participating the programme has diminished. Alarmed by these latest developments, on 28 August the Science, Education and Cultural Committee (SECC) decided to make a motion to the Federal Council, underlining that, although the renewed interim solution creates a stable framework for mobility activities without the need for further investments, on the long term this solution might result in a negative impact within the fields of education and science, as well as for the Swiss economy. Accordingly, the motion calls for the Federal Council to start as soon as possible the negotiations with the EU on the full participation of Switzerland to the next generation of the Erasmus+ programme (whose name is yet to be decided). After carefully considering this motion, the Federal Council has proposed on 15 September to dismiss the SECC request as already satisfied by the dispatch announcing the prolongation of the SEMP. But a few days afterwards, on September 21, the Swiss State Council has returned to the issue, approving by majority the motion made by the SECC.
These latest discussions show how highly perceived is in Switzerland the need to re-establish a full regime of collaboration with the EU on Erasmus+. Overall, what really matters for Switzerland is to preserve a high level of internationalisation of higher education, which seems more and more to be at stake under the umbrella of the renewed interim programme.
Reaction to the extension of the interim solution - Press release