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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 5 - 12 mar 2014
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


Europe vs Switzerland. The struggle over the H2020 program

It happened again: after the Israeli case, Horizon 2020 is anew in the middle of a political clash. This time the situation is even worse than the Israel one, both because it is within the European geographical region and because Switzerland had been a key player in the previous Seventh Framework Program. Roughly, the question is: is it fair towards EU citizens that European institutions that are based on the “free movement of persons and ideas” gives their moneys to a Country that refuted this ideal? On the Swiss side, traditionally the referendums are strong and powerful tools to bind political decisions to citizens' will. For that reason, the February 9th Referendum is a non-returning point. On the European Union side, otherwise, it is a matter of giving money (a lot of money) to a country that is refuting the freedom of movements of its citizens. This is a clear case of diplomatic fight, an intricate but meaningful example of how science and diplomacy are strictly linked.

As been part of the Efta, the free trade area of the European continent (an organization backed by the US to support European integration), during the 90s Switzerland had signed ten bilateral agreements with the European Union. Two agreements deal respectively with the free movement of citizens and the access of the Swiss research institutions to European grants. On these bases, Switzerland entered enthusiastically the Seventh Framework Program, with great performances (see figures above, in the infographics). A negotiations session for the participation of Switzerland in the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programs had been scheduled for mid-February, but then, after the Referendum, almost frozen.

On February 25th, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation announced that an agreement had been concluded with the EU. The result is that the Confederation will be considered as a third country in applying for Horizon 2020 calls. This means that “researchers in Switzerland may continue to take part in partnership projects (but they are) no longer able to take part in individual projects due to its third country status”. Meanwhile, a group of European scientists promoted a petition to stop this political clash (and the results of the referendum).

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Giacomo Destro