After an 18 moth “exploratory talk” period, the European Union and the Swiss Federal Council parallelly adopted decisions to begin negotiations. While there is no set timeline, the Commission expects the talks to be concluded in 2024.
One of the key parts of the negotiations – which will cover EU citizen and workers rights, economic topics and food safety amongst numerous other topics – are research programmes. The Commission confirmed the interest of both parties in Horizon Europe, Euratom Research & Training, ITER, Digital Europe, Erasmus+ and Copernicus. While working out the details of a full Horizon association is expected to take some time, researchers can begin to collaborate before a final Horizon agreement is reached, within the framework of the 2024 European Research Council Grants. Upon the beginning of negotiations this year, Swiss researchers will gain the eligibility to apply for ERC grants (the first one of which is expected to open on 29 May), as well as access to Horizon Europe 2025 work programme calls, under a transitional agreement. The ERC issued a statement, in which it welcomed the developments, which, according to Science/Business, is a timeline faster than anticipated.
Swiss association to the Horizon Programme is the remaining primary goal of the “Stick to Science” initiative, signed by EuChemS, which campaigned for the United Kingdom’s and Switzerland’s participation in the EU Research Programme. In late 2023, the UK confirmed its full association, fulfilling one of the initiative’s aim. A Joint Statement by research intensive universities published by Stick to Science also welcomed the beginning of negotiation, and called for the parties “to work together, in a spirit of flexibility and compromise”.