Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Welcome start for the process for Switzerland’s reassociation to EU programmes

During a formal meeting on 18 March 2024 in Brussels, European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the Swiss Confederation Viola Amherd officially launched the start of negotiations on a broad set of measures meant to revamp the bilateral relation between the EU and Switzerland. This process should ultimately enable, under the to-be-agreed conditions, Switzerland’s reassociation to key programmes, including Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe, a development that has been highly advocated by the higher education and research sectors.  

This breakthrough meeting was possible thanks to a series of positive developments between March 2022 and November 2023, when the EU and Switzerland were engaged in exploratory discussions on the future of their bilateral relations. On 15 December 2023, the Commission and the Federal Council published a Common Understanding document, which provides a written record of the outcome of the exploratory talks. On 8 and 12 March 2024 the formal negotiation mandates were adopted by the Swiss Federal Council and the European Council, respectively. 

With the official negotiations now open, the accompanying transitional measures already allow for Swiss applications to the European Research Council (ERC) calls this year and could enable participation in the entire Horizon Europe programme as of 2025, if an agreement is reached in time. During this transitional period, Swiss applicants will be treated as “potential beneficiaries”, i.e. as if Switzerland is an associated country from admissibility and eligibility to evaluation, up until the preparation of grant agreements. The signature of the latter will be dependent on the country’s associated status at that moment in time. This already represents a step forward from the previous period when Swiss researchers were able to apply to the ERC but had to move to EU or associated countries to take up the grants. Similarly, Swiss researchers were able to form part of Horizon Europe consortia, but were not able to coordinate them, and had to bring their own national funding. 

The start of the formal negotiations was widely applauded by key stakeholder organisations both in Switzerland and in the EU, the reactions highlighting the centrality of prompt progress towards full participation in both Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe.