The 39th inter-parliamentary meeting between Switzerland and the EU took place on 9 October. The discussions focussed on European cooperation to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and the institutional framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU. Due to the current restrictions on social distancing, the meeting was held as a video conference.

Under the joint chairmanship of Federal Councillor Eric Nussbaumer (SP, BL) and MEP Andreas Schwab (EPP, Germany), the EFTA/EU Delegation of the Federal Assembly and the members of the European Parliament’s DEEA Delegation responsible for relations with Switzerland exchanged views on the bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU. In addition to COVID-19 and the institutional framework agreement, the outcome of the vote on the ‘Limitation Initiative’ and Switzerland’s possible participation in the EU cooperation programmes ‘Horizon Europe’ and ‘Erasmus+’ were also discussed.

The meeting took place just two weeks after the referendum on the ‘Limitation Initiative’ held on 27 September. The Swiss members of parliament discussed the outcome of the referendum and its importance for the further steps with respect to the institutional framework agreement with the MEPs.

Ambassador Urs Bucher, head of the Swiss Mission to the European Union, and Stefano Sannino, Deputy Secretary General in the European External Action Service EEAS, also took part in the meeting. Both representatives acknowledged the close bilateral relations between Switzerland and the EU, and expressed their opinions on the current state of the institutional framework agreement.

The 39th inter-parliamentary meeting was also an opportunity to take stock of the cooperation between Switzerland and the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. The close coordination between Switzerland and its neighbouring countries on issues including temporary border closures, unimpeded access for cross-border healthcare workers and the joint organisation of repatriation flights proved to be crucial for successful crisis management.

With a view to pursuing participatory opportunities for Switzerland in the EU cooperation programmes  ‘Horizon Europe’ and ‘Erasmus+’, both delegations expressed appreciation for their cooperation to date in education and research. Switzerland has been fully associated with the ongoing EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, ‘Horizon 2020’. However, this programme will conclude at the end of the year. The EU is currently discussing the rules for the participation of Associated States in the successor programme, ‘Horizon Europe’. The MPs exchanged views on the necessary measures to ensure the continuation of close cooperation in education and research.