The government is preparing interim solutions for Swiss researchers and students following the European Union’s decision to suspend Switzerland from educational projects in the wake of a controversial immigration vote in February.
Education Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said the aim was to keep the doors open for scientists and projects to continue their research before Switzerland can eventually rejoin EU the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes.
Schneider-Ammann stressed the importance of an interim solution and a participation in the European programme not only for financial reasons, but also to allow Swiss researchers and students to gain experience at an international level.
He said Brussels had signaled it was prepared to review its decision last month to block cooperation with Switzerland once the government presents plans to break an impasse over access to the Swiss labour market to citizens from Croatia.
As a result of the February vote, which calls for an end to the free movement of people accord with the 28-nation bloc, the Swiss government announced it was putting on ice an extension to the accord to the latest EU member Croatia.
Non-EU member Switzerland says it will put forward a proposal next month.
In the meantime a Swiss delegation of senior officials in the education ministry and leaders of federal technical institutes as well as the National Science Foundation have held talks in Zagreb to boost cooperation with Croatia.
However, Schneider-Ammann told journalists on Friday the meeting was not part of the plan to break the political impasse.
Schneider-Ammann also rejected reports that the EU had already threatened to break off cooperation on the student exchange programme before the February 9 vote.
He insisted that Brussels had presented its demands for a tripling of the Swiss financial contribution in the Erasmus+ scheme during negotiations last December and January.
The suspension of the exchange and research schemes has caused an outcry in the academic world.
Schneider-Ammann encouraged Swiss researchers and students to continue to apply for EU programmes. His ministry has been mandated to prepare a funding plan for Swiss institutes, similar to a scheme in place before 2011.
For his part, Interior Minister Alain Berset, whose portfolio includes cultural matters, says the cabinet approved CHF5 million ($5.6 million) for the Swiss film industry to make up for the suspension of an EU culture programme, called Media.
However, he said the alternative scheme could not replace the Media programme, which covers production, distribution, exploitation as well as the funding of festivals and training.
He stressed the importance of co-productions.
“Most fiction films aimed at an international audience are co-productions between various countries. The Swiss cinema needs partners,” he said.
Berset mentioned three recent commercial successes of Swiss films on domestic screens as well as in cinemas abroad, including Night train to Lisbon and the documentary More than Honey.