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Now let Switzerland into Horizon Europe too, EU urged


New “spirit of cooperation” with UK should be extended to fellow outcast country, universities say

The EU has been urged to allow Switzerland to rejoin its research and innovation programme now that it has paved the way for the UK to do so.

The bloc has so far prevented both countries from ‘associating’ to its €95.5 billion 2021-27 Horizon Europe R&I programme, owing to political disagreements over issues such as trade.

Both were associated to former programmes, and research organisations across Europe have spent the past two years telling politicians that their current ostracisation has become increasingly damaging to R&I on the continent. But their warnings have not achieved any visible results.

This week, however, the UK and EU reached an agreement in principle on trade involving Northern Ireland, and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that, as a result, work could soon begin on allowing the UK to join Horizon Europe.

Now, European university groups and their representatives have called on EU officials to re-engage with the Swiss government so that Switzerland too can return to the fold. Talks have stalled since the government walked away from negotiations on a broad relationship agreement in 2021.

New spirit of cooperation

“Common sense seems to have returned,” the League of European Research Universities said as it announced it had co-signed a joint statement with more than a dozen other European and UK research organisations calling for the UK and the EU to get British association to Horizon Europe “swiftly over the line”.

Leru has five British and two Swiss universities among its 23 members. Its secretary-general Kurt Deketelaere said that research collaboration is “for the benefit of every European citizen’s wellbeing and prosperity”. Welcoming the progress for the UK, he added: “Let’s now do the same for Switzerland!”

The European University Association, which also has Swiss and British members, did not sign the joint statement but did publish its own statement strongly welcoming von der Leyen’s assertion that the trade deal should unblock Horizon Europe association for the UK. The same “spirit of cooperation” should now be applied to Switzerland too, it added.

“Europe’s universities hope that the period of uncertainty is ending,” the EUA said. “This positive development towards UK association to Horizon Europe should also be an incentive to solve the issue regarding the association of Switzerland.”