Friday 9 February 2024

On Friday 9 February, several student associations gathered on the Bundesplatz in Bern. Their aim: to mark the 10th anniversary of Switzerland's exclusion from the European exchange programme Erasmus+, following the acceptationof the initiative against mass immigration. After speaking in public, the organisers held a symbolic engagement ceremony between Switzerland and Erasmus+. They called on the Federal Council to press ahead with negotiations with the EU in the perspective of a re-association to the mobility programme.

It was 10 years ago: on 9 February 2014, the Swiss population accepted the initiative against mass immigration, and with it Switzerland's exclusion from the European exchange programme Erasmus+. To mark these 10 years of separation, the youth associations UNES, SNYC, ESN Switzerland, Intermundo and yes met late on Friday morning on the Bundesplatz in Bern. Politicians such as Fabien Fivaz (Les Vert-e-s) and Regina Durrer Knobel (Le Centre) were on hand to lend their support.

"The current solution is not sufficient, as it deprives Swiss students of access to the full range of the programme's rich and varied offerings. As a third country in Erasmus+, Switzerland is lagging behind the affiliated countries", Florian Hebeisen, member of the committee of the Swiss Council for Youth Activities (SNYC), pointed out in his speech.

A view shared by Movetia director Olivier Tschopp, who supports the approach. "Since its creation in 2017, the national agency responsible for implementing international mobility and cooperation programmes has been struggling with the difficulties for Switzerland of standing apart from European programmes". In his view, participation in Erasmus+ is a decisive factor in the success of Switzerland as acentre of education.

Switzerland and the EU in the spotlight

The current political context gives a glimmer of hope to the organisers, who are calling on the Federal Council to take action. "In December 2023, the negotiating mandate with the EU was adopted, which means that the chances of re-association are now intact. We now need to lay the foundations for domestic policy", said Nadège Widmer, co-president of the Swiss Students' Union, at the press conference. The Federal Council is therefore called upon to present a message on the financing of Erasmus+ as soon as possible.

The youth organisations made this request by organising a symbolic engagement on the Bundesplatz. "The Union we are celebrating today is the coming together of two long-standing partners", said a delighted Nadège Widmer. She also emphasised the role of the cantons in the re-association with Erasmus+. According to the press release, Bern, Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Solothurn, Basel-Stadt and other cantons have or will shortly be submitting funding proposals to the federal chambers.

Earlier in the week, Silvia Steiner, President of the Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), published a statement in favour of Switzerland's "full and complete" participation in the Erasmus+ and Horizon programmes. "I hope to receive support for this wish from all quarters", she wrote on the EDK blog.