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Tensions have been high since Switzerland rejected a proposed trade deal with the EU in May. This week the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research (SERI), confirmed the EU will treat Switzerland as an “non-associated third country” regarding research projects.
This blocks Switzerland, which isn’t in the EU but has traditionally remained close to the bloc, from applying for European funding.
Scientists based in the country can no longer apply for European Research Council grants (ERC), which can be worth up to €2.5million (£2.1million).
The SERI admitted that, as a third country, Switzerland is “in principle no longer able to access these prestige projects”.
It has also lost access to funding from the European Innovation Council, which focuses on small and medium-sized companies.
Swiss authorities say they will intervene to support Switzerland based scientists hit by the decision.
According to Luzerner Zeitung, a Swiss German-language newspaper, Brussels is considering letting Swiss scientists in the EU apply for ERC funding if they agree to work in an EU member state.
The paper reports this is being seen as an attempt by the EU to strip talent from Switzerland, sparking fears of a “brain drain”.
In May the Swiss government infuriated Brussels by rejecting a trade deal with the bloc.
This was planned to replace the over 120 bilateral deals, which currently govern EU-Swiss trade.
Swiss authorities were angry the EU’s plan would entitle EU citizens in Switzerland to access the country’s welfare system.
They also feared it would undermine wages and block state aid to Swiss businesses.
In response the European Commission said: “We regret this decision, given the progress that has been made over the last years.”
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The right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party welcomed the move as a “victory for Swiss self-determination”.
However Roger Nordmann, from the Swiss Socialist party, described the day as “black Wednesday”.
Unlike the UK, Switzerland remains a member of the European single market.
This allows free movement of people, goods and capital across the European bloc.
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Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016 by 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent.
It finally left, following a number of delays caused by parliamentary opposition, in January 2020.
However Britain remained a member of the European single market until December 2020, during the Brexit transition period.
This was replaced on December 31 by a new trade deal, negotiated by Boris Johnson.
The UK-EU agreement restored Britain as a fully independent trading nation, but left Northern Ireland closely tied to the European single market.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.
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