Switzerland used to be a full member of the EU scheme which allows millions of students to spend time studying in another European country.
But after the Swiss public voted in favour of restricting EU immigration in 2014, Brussels reacted by suspending Switzerland’s membership of Erasmus+, saying immigration restrictions were incompatible with the scheme.
Switzerland quickly approved an interim solution allowing it to offer student exchange as an Erasmus+ ‘partner country' rather than a full member, by arranging a series of bilateral agreements with individual European universities under the new Swiss-European Mobility Programme (SEMP) banner.
This temporary solution has been a success in terms of participation, but it offers more limited opportunities for students than the full Erasmus+ scheme does.
Since Switzerland resolved its immigration issue, relations with the EU have been put back on track, and last year the country said it was extending its interim solution until the end of 2017 but that it planned to rejoin Erasmus+ as a full member in 2018.
However that no longer seems to be the case. In February this year the government said it no longer thought negotiations for Switzerland’s resumption of membership could be realistically concluded within the deadline, news agencies reported at the time.
The interim solution could now remain in place until 2020, it said.
Unhappy with the announcement, on Thursday the Swiss Council of Youth Activity (SAJV) launched a petition to demand Switzerland’s full membership of Erasmus+ and to push the Swiss government to “grant the necessary financial provisions” to allow adhesion to the scheme, it said in a statement.
Switzerland’s interim solution is “insufficient” and therefore punishes Swiss students, say the petition signatories.
“Full membership is simply a question of political will and we demand that Parliament does everything possible to allow full participation from 2018,” said the organization’s co-President Elisabeth Widmer.
And it seems the petition is backed by a number of MPs.
Money should not be a stumbling block for negotiations, Socialist Party MP Mathias Reynard was quoted by news agencies as saying.
“We do not have the right to ruin our young people’s future over finances,” he said.