1 January 2004 is an important milestone in terms of Switzerland's participation in the EU Framework Programmes. Before then, Swiss researchers taking part in FP projects had limited rights and received their funding directly from the Confederation. After that date, thanks to a bilateral agreement signed with the EU, Switzerland was able to take part as an associate country in both FP6 and the Euratom Programme, with all of the rights and obligations that came with that status. A similar bilateral agreement for full Swiss involvement in FP7 (2007-2013) was also concluded.
With associated country status, Switzerland was entitled to representation in the project committees and the various steering committees. This gave Switzerland direct access to information and meant it could be involved in developing the current programme and in shaping future EU Framework Programmes.
After 2013, a full association for Switzerland was also envisaged with regard to FP8 – the Horizon 2020 package including Euratom. But due to the outcome of the popular vote of 9 February 2014 on the so-called mass immigration initiative and the subsequent non-signing of the protocol on Croatia, the European Union rejected Switzerland’s full association to Horizon 2020. An agreement with the European Commission was signed on 5 December 2014, according to which Switzerland was partially associated to Horizon 2020 from 15 September 2014 on until the end of 2016. This allowed Switzerland to continue to participate in certain areas of Horizon 2020 as an associated state. This concerned the pillars of Excellent Science, Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation and Euratom (see Horizon 2020).
In all other areas of Horizon 2020 Switzerland had third country status. With a few exceptions, researchers in Switzerland could still take part in FP8 funding instruments and submit project proposals but not receive any EU research funding. The Confederation therefore provided direct funding to researchers from Switzerland whose participation in collaborative projects under Horizon 2020 was not funded by the European Commission (see Horizon 2020). The question of whether Switzerland would be fully associated to Horizon 2020 from 2017 or instead relegated to third country status in all programme areas depended on the continuation of the free movement of persons in Switzerland and its extension to Croatia. On 16 December 2016, the Federal Council ratified the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia. Following this ratification, Switzerland retrieves the full association to the entire Horizon 2020 programme from 01 January 2017 on. The European Commission (EC) has updated its factsheet regarding Switzerland’s association status accordingly. The latest information can be found at www.h2020.ch as well as on the SERI homepage.