The EU cooperation programmes in education, research and innovation enter a new seven-year programme period in 2021. Specifically, this relates to the Horizon Europe framework programme for research and innovation, the Digital Europe funding programme, the Erasmus+ education programme and the Creative Europe cultural funding programme. Switzerland has participated in several programmes in previous programme periods. Its association with the European funding programmes helps to raise the profile, quality and productivity of Switzerland's research and innovation sector. For the EU too, Switzerland is a valued cooperation partner on account of the multidisciplinary nature of the Swiss research landscape and its close integration with the European Research Area.
At the beginning of each new programme period, the European Union revises the legal basis (including the possible participation of third countries), the content and the financial resources allocated to the individual programmes. Following the adoption of the multiannual financial framework in November 2020, there is now clarity regarding the financial resources. However, the new legal basis will only be finalised during the second quarter of 2021. Only then will the European Commission be in a position to negotiate specific terms of participation with interested third countries.
The virtual meetings of the EFTA/EU Delegation with the representatives of the EU institutions on 25 March 2021 provided an opportunity to obtain first-hand information on the status of the consultations and to discuss the possibilities of Switzerland's participation. Regarding the Horizon Europe framework programme, the EFTA/EU Delegation met with Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Annalisa Bogliolo, a head of sector at the Directorate-General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology, briefed delegation members on the specific content and objectives of Digital Europe. Viviane Hoffmann, Deputy Director-General at the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, presented information on the Erasmus+ and Creative Europe programmes. Finally, the delegation members discussed the European Parliament's position on the Erasmus+ education programme with MEP Milan Zver (Slovenia, EPP), member of the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education and rapporteur for the Erasmus Regulation.
Under the new legal basis, in order to participate in all requested programmes, an umbrella multi-programme agreement setting out the basic and cross-programme terms (e.g. for calculating financial contributions) will have to be negotiated. However, the EU representatives indicated that the European Commission is only prepared to enter into official talks with Switzerland if progress is made in the negotiations on the institutional agreement. Several members of the Swiss delegation remarked that setting this condition was both inappropriate and irrelevant from Switzerland's point of view as the institutional agreement covers only the market access agreements and does not relate to the cooperation programmes.
The EFTA/EU Delegation was represented in the discussions by its president, National Council member Eric Nussbaumer (SP, BL), its vice president, Council of States member Benedikt Würth (Die Mitte, SG), National Council members Thomas Aeschi (SVP, ZG), Hans-Peter Portmann (FDP, ZH) and Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter (Die Mitte, BL) as well as Council of States members Hannes Germann (SVP, TG) and Carlo Sommaruga (SP, GE).