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25 years of bilateral agreements with the EU: Switzerland as a centre of knowledge benefits from European cooperation

The first bilateral treaty package between Switzerland and the European Union was signed on 21 June 1999. The bilateral agreements are of central importance for the success of Switzerland as a centre of research, education and innovation. Cooperation in Europe is essential in order to address and overcome global challenges.

The bilateral agreements have enabled Switzerland to participate extensively in the European research framework programmes and the Erasmus education programmes. In addition, the free movement of persons makes it easier for Swiss universities to recruit highly qualified researchers and lecturers. 

Since 2004, Switzerland participated in the research framework programmes as an associated country within the framework of the Bilateral Agreements I. Since then, the association was renegotiated for each programme generation. Prior to this, Switzerland had been positioned as a third country since 1987. Switzerland has been involved in European science for longer than the European Union has existed. It was involved in the founding of CERN in Geneva as early as 1954. In 1975, it was one of the founding members of the European Space Agency.  

The research framework programmes are the only instrument for promoting research and innovation that is jointly funded by different countries and that connects a large number of national research communities. In international competition, projects are funded based on their scientific excellence and innovation potential. They promote the mobility of researchers, the exchange of knowledge and joint financial investment in strategically important projects. In addition to the mobility programmes, the Erasmus+ education programme offers a variety of instruments to support and promote the increased strategic networking of European universities. 

The association with the research programmes and the Erasmus+ programme is of existential importance for future cooperation in the European higher education landscape and cannot be adequately replaced with a Swiss alternative solution. Switzerland as a centre of knowledge and research is dependent on regulated and stable long-term framework conditions for research and education cooperation with the European Union. 

Luciana Vaccaro, President of swissuniversities, emphasises: "We must learn from the positive experiences for the future and further develop the achievements to date. If the universities are weakened, Switzerland will also become less attractive as a business location. It is therefore in the general interest of society to prevent the erosion of Switzerland's international position as a centre of knowledge, research and education."

Further information on the European Programmes.

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