Europe suspends Swiss research status in immigration row


An immigration spat has led the European commission to suspend Switzerland’s participation as a full member of the EU’s research and education programmes. The ban is the result of a Swiss referendum blocking immigrants from Croatia, the EU’s newest member state, from freely entering the country, as agreed in a previous accord.

Announcing the commission’s decision, European commissioner for employment, László Andor, said: ‘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.’ The loss of Switzerland’s status as a full member of these research and education programmes will make it harder to secure European funding, but not impossible by any means. Negotiations are underway to see if a compromise can be agreed and Switzerland’s full member status restored for the second funding call.

In recent years Switzerland’s world-class science base has done very well from the EU’s research programmes, securing €1.8 billion (£1.5 billion) of funding from the Seventh Framework Programme, while only paying in €1.6 billion. This made the EU one of the major funders of Swiss research. The Swiss government recently agreed to put CHF4.4 billion (£3 billion) into the latest Horizon 2020 research programme.

This is the second major political dispute to hit Horizon 2020, following the EU’s moratorium on research funding going to institutes beyond the Green Line in Israel.


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