The European Union has suspended negotiations with Switzerland on the participation in EU education exchange programmes, such as Erasmus+ and the Horizon 2020 research programme, because of the imminent introduction of quotas to community workers approved in a referendum last week.
Even though Switzerland is not an EU member state, it belongs to the Schengen zone, which enables citizens to cross European borders without custom controls. The Horizon 2020 research programme and Erasmus+ student exchanges are directly linked to freedom of movement inside Europe for communitarian citizens which is one of the fundamental pillars of the EU. The Swiss refusal to sign the protocol extending the free movement of persons to workers from Croatia, a country that joined the EU in July last year, has therefore lead the EU to freeze research grants in the context of the EU Horizon 2020 programme and to suspend the involvement of Switzerland in the Erasmus+ student exchange programme.
The European Commission is now waiting for a reaction from the Swiss government which has expressed its willingness to negotiate with the EU.
The Commission President, José Manuel Durão Barroso, said that he is aware of the Swiss intentions but he warned that the free movement of persons in Europe "is not negotiable".
Switzerland may experience an important loss in its education budget, should the country decide to continue with these restrictive migrant measures.