The European Union would still like Switzerland to participate in its asylum policy programme despite fallout from the Swiss anti-EU immigration vote that has made other agreements between the parties null and void.
The European Parliament stated on February 11 – two days after the vote to curb immigration – that Switzerland’s vote violated existing agreements on the free movement of people. According to new information obtained by Swiss public radio SRF, on that same day, EU officials also gave the green light for the Swiss to continue to participate in the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
Neither the European Parliament nor the Swiss cabinet and parliament have ratified Switzerland’s participation in EASO. Negotiations on the issue were concluded between Bern and Brussels a year ago.
The main role of the organisation, founded in 2011 on the island of Malta, is to provide support to member states whose asylum systems are under particular pressure.
By participating in the organisation, Switzerland gains access to risk analyses and information concerning other EU countries’ practices in the asylum arena. It also attends and participates in the agency’s policy deliberations.
The cost of participation is proportional to each country’s gross domestic product. According to Swiss public radio SRF, the Swiss government has budgeted some CHF630,000 ($709,000) for participation in EASO in 2014.
News of the EU’s wish that Switzerland move forward with EASO participation has raised some eyebrows, given that the Swiss have been excluded from other programmes due to the immigration vote. It was recently announced that Swiss students could no longer participate in the EU-organised Erasmus+ exchange programme, and researchers will be blocked from participating in the Horizon2020 research programme.
After the vote, the EU also suspended negotiations related to an accord on electricity with Switzerland and refused to enter negotiations about Swiss participation in a programme to support film production.
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