European policy

The SNSF promotes research collaboration with Europe. This bolsters science and the economy, and benefits everyone living in Switzerland.

​Institutional framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU

Switzerland and the European Union are currently negotiating a framework agreement that will lay a solid foundation for future relations. The agreement is particularly important for Switzerland because it facilitates and guarantees barrier-free access to the EU's single market, among other benefits.

strengthen Switzerland's position as a reliable partner in international cooperation. Researchers in Switzerland rely on unhindered international exchanges and multilateral networking with other countries, and being able to compete with the best scientific minds is essential to their success.

The SNSF believes that legal uncertainty in dealings with the EU could damage Swiss research. This would have a negative impact on Swiss innovation and throttle the economy, which is vital to job creation and prosperity.

Within the scope of the review phase for the institutional framework agreement, the Federal Council invited the SNSF to provide a statement in March 2019. You will find it at the link below.

(This position paper is based on the position of Netzwerk Future, of which the SNSF is a member.)

EU Framework Programmes for Research

The SNSF regards the EU Framework Programmes as central to the international success of Swiss research and innovation. It has commented on these programmes in its position papers.

Research collaboration with Europe threatened by "Limitation Initiative"

The federal popular initiative "For moderate immigration (Limitation Initiative)" demanded that the Federal Council suspend the agreement on free movement with the European Union. The SNSF and Swiss universities recommended rejecting the initiative – as did the Federal Council and parliament.

The initiators of the initiative were prepared to accept the unravelling of the bilateral agreements I. This would have threatened two agreements with the EU that are crucial to maintaining Switzerland's position as a world leader in education, research and innovation: the agreement on free movement and the agreement on research.

Both public and private research in Switzerland need free movement. It makes hiring researchers in Europe a simple task for Swiss institutions. Many Swiss researchers also benefit from free movement: they can easily work in other European countries to expand their knowledge and experience.

The research agreement is also part of the bilateral agreements: it allows researchers in Switzerland to participate in the European research framework programmes and to engage in cross-border collaboration with the best teams in Europe. Such collaboration is a key driver of future scientific success. It offers the only means of tackling global challenges such as climate change. Thanks to the EU framework programmes, we can reach goals that would not be achievable if countries acted on their own or in a small group. Network analyses of the EU show that Switzerland is at the heart of European collaboration.

In addition, the selection processes of the EU framework programmes allow Swiss researchers to compete with the brightest minds. This strengthens the global competitiveness of Swiss research and enhances Switzerland's appeal as a place to work for researchers from abroad. It also serves as a benchmark of our strengths and weaknesses.

Accepting the Limitation Initiative would have spelled the end for the agreement on free movement, and therefore also for the research agreement. Such a deterioration of the framework conditions would have had far-reaching consequences for research in Switzerland.
The initiative was rejected by 61.7 per cent of the electorate.

SNSF position on the Self-Determination Initiative 2018

On 25 November 2018, Switzerland voted on the initiative "Swiss law, not foreign judges" (Self-Determination Initiative). This initiative aimed to enshrine in the Constitution that Swiss law must always take precedence over international laws. Only binding international law would have been exempted.

In the event of a conflict between international law and any new Swiss law, Switzerland would have to withdraw from the corresponding international agreements. And because of the so-called 'guillotine clause', the bilateral agreements might also have been jeopardised, with direct repercussions for Swiss research. This would have put at risk, in particular, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, including researchers, and the research agreements with the EU.

The Swiss National Science Foundation feared that the Self-Determination Initiative would cause instability and legal uncertainty. This would have been detrimental to the Swiss economy and Switzerland's prosperity.​


Institutional Relations division