BM85: Erasmus+, the negotiations must be conducted responsibly.
Almost 10 years ago, Switzerland was excluded from the Erasmus+ mobility program following a popular vote on February 9, 2014, regarding an initiative to reduce immigration and the unwillingness of the Swiss authorities to expand the Schengen free movement of peoples to Croatia. Since then, negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union consistently ended in failure, culminating in the outright abandonment in 2021 of negotiations concerning the framework agreement. This situation significantly contributed to the vulnerability of the Swiss education, research and innovation ecosystem. Youth and student advocacy organizations, as well as higher education and research institutions, continually urged the Federal Council to issue a new negotiation mandate that includes the Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe cooperation programs.
On November 8th of this year, the Federal Council announced that it had tasked its Department of Foreign Affairs with drafting a new negotiation mandate following fruitful exploratory discussions with the European Union. This new package must include international cooperation agreements for Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe. As Swiss institutions have prepared in advance for the reintegration of these programs, the conduct of negotiations is ready and must be carried out responsibly with implementation in mind.
However, numerous obstacles still lie ahead on the path to rejoining. The experience of past negotiations has indicated that participation in cooperation programs in education, research and innovation were regularly used as a means of retaliation against Switzerland, especially in situations of economic tension. While the situation has fortunately evolved, there is a concern that history might repeat itself to some extent. Therefore, we urge the negotiating parties to acknowledge the damage inflicted in the past on the fields of education and research. Switzerland’s non-association to cooperation programs in education and research directly weakens and deteriorates the quality of education and research for students in Switzerland as well as for the comprehensiveness of the programme itself.
Furthermore, experience has also taught us that negotiations are conducted over the long term and can become bogged down, eventually leading to outright failure. This time, the schedule imposes the additional constraint of European elections and the renewal of the European Commission. We call on both parties to maintain a responsible position in the formulation of a new protocol on the re-association to Erasmus+ in the framework of the agreement in the field of education, research and innovation. Since the implementation is already prepared by competent institutions like Movetia, this move would serve as Switzerland’s commitment to continue negotiations on other areas of the package.
Finally, we call on the entire Swiss political institutions to fully recognize the contribution of this program to the world of education, whether tertiary, secondary, primary, vocational and professional training or sports. All elements provided by the cooperation program constitute a benefit that Switzerland cannot afford to forgo without delivering a definitive and dramatic blow to the quality of its education system at all levels. In this context, it is important to realise that Switzerland’s contribution, while significant in the program’s financing model, remains essential for all concerned institutions and organisations. We therefore call on political leaders to take the time to understand all the benefits and co-benefits that a full and complete re-adherence to Erasmus+ would bring and to support Switzerland’s contribution to the program’s financing.
In conclusion, the Union of Swiss Students, VSS-UNES-USU, together with the European Students’ Union, ESU, urges the Federal Council and the European Commission to:
- Conduct negotiations regarding Erasmus+ with seriousness and responsibility; in this regard, the program should not be used as a means of retaliation.
- Agree on an early accession to the program, considering the rapid implementation that can be achieved, as well as the symbolic gesture.
- Consider all the benefits and co-benefits inherent in participating in the program, so that Switzerland’s contribution to the program’s financing is evident.
Seconders: NUS UK, UDU, VVS, MFS, HÖOK, USI, ANSA, SAMOK, SYL, LÍS