Swiss seek deal with EU on training programmes

Exchange programmes are popular among Swiss students Keystone

Switzerland is seeking to conclude a bilateral treaty with the European Union on education, training and youth programmes.

This content was published on March 1, 2007 - 18:31

The cabinet approved a mandate for negotiations likely to begin later this year. Brussels still has to decide whether it wants to open talks on the issue.

"We don't think that the ongoing row between Brussels and Switzerland over corporate tax breaks will have an impact on negotiations on Swiss participation in EU education and training programmes," commented Verena Weber of the State Secretariat for Education and Research told swissinfo

"They were already the subject of talks in the second set of bilateral treaties."

The European Commission has accused Switzerland of breaching a 1972 trade agreement, arguing that low corporate taxes offered by a number of cantons were a disguised state subsidy.

Switzerland has already concluded 16 bilateral treaties with the EU, mainly on trade, labour, transport, as well as customs, asylum and tax issues. Moves are also underway for separate deals on electricity and agriculture.

Have a say

Successful conclusion of the bilateral treaty on education and training would enable Switzerland to have a say in determining the strategic direction of training programmes, as well as initiate and lead such projects themselves, according to the government.

"The path has been clear for further steps since the signing of the decision by the European parliament and the European Council at the end of 2006 establishing the Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action programmes," the interior ministry said on Thursday.

Last November the EU adopted a new generation of education, training and youth programmes for the period 2007-2013. The move allows for the continuation of long-running schemes, including the Erasmus student exchange programme.

During talks on a second set of bilateral treaties - which were concluded three years ago- both sides agreed that Switzerland would seek participation in the new generation of youth training programmes.

"For legal reasons it was not possible to conduct negotiations on entering ongoing programmes," the interior ministry statement said.


In a first step the cabinet will consult parliament's foreign policy committees. The result of the negotiations will be submitted to parliament to agree on the financing of the official participation in the training programmes.

The interior ministry says it hopes Switzerland will be able to take part in the EU scheme by the beginning of 2009.

Until such time, the Swiss will continue to participate in EU education programmes on the basis of agreements with project coordinators or partner institutions.

Last year Switzerland spent about SFr14 million ($11.5 million) to fund student exchange programmes, including work experience, for about 5,400 young people.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Switzerland is not a member of the EU. Voters in 1992 threw out a plan to join the Economic Area Treaty.

Last year, the government said membership was a long-term policy option, but it wanted to continue bilateral deals for the time being.

Instead Switzerland has concluded bilateral treaties on 16 issues, includuing labour, trade, transport, taxation, customs, asylum and research since 2000.

Moves are also underway to negotiate a deal on electricity and agriculture.

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