On the 14th of July 2012, after five years, the commitment period of Switzerland’s EU enlargement contribution comes to an end. During this period, Switzerland appraised and approved together with the new EU-countries from Central and Eastern Europe 210 projects, which are now being implemented with the financial support of Switzerland until the end of 2017.
The European Union’s cohesion policy is being implemented by means of various funds that are financed by all of the EU-Member States via the EU budget. The three major funds are the European Cohesion Fund, The European Regional Development Fund, and the European Social Fund.
It is misleading whenever either the term “Cohesion Fund” or “Cohesion Payment” is used instead of the term “Enlargement Contribution”. The Swiss Enlargement Contribution has nothing to do with the EU Cohesion Fund, nor does Switzerland make any cohesion payments to the EU. What Switzerland does do with its Enlargement Contribution it to finance specific, high quality projects aimed at reducing the economic and social disparities in the twelve new EU-Member States. In this way, it supports the EU objective of strengthening the economic and social cohesion (to be understood as internal cohesion), and it does so in its own particular way. Indeed the projects are bilaterally agreed upon with each individual partner country, with Switzerland autonomously making the final decision on approval of the financing. In addition, the projects are closely monitored by Switzerland, for instance by way of its own contribution offices on the spot. As a rule, the partner countries finance at least 15% of the project costs on their own. Swiss Enlargement Contribution payments, amounting to a maximum 85% of the given project’s overall cost, are staggered on the basis of the partner country’s requests for reimbursement. With these requests, the partner country must submit certified expense vouchers and reports on project progress status.
The Swiss contribution to EU enlargement towards the East
Since 2008, Switzerland has been participating in various projects designed to reduce the economic and social disparities in an enlarged EU. For despite the rapid growth that characterized the years immediately following EU membership, the level of prosperity in the new EU member states is relatively low and the gap with EU-15 member states is comparably high. A number of the partner countries were hard hit by the consequences of the financial and economic crises, which is why the Swiss contribution is particularly welcome. Switzerland’s commitment to EU enlargement is an expression of solidarity. At the same time, Switzerland is laying the foundation for solid economic and political ties with the new EU member states.
The beneficiaries are the ten new Member States that joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. Since 2009, Switzerland has also been contributing to the support of Bulgaria and Romania, who acceded to the EU on 1 January 2007. The enlargement contribution funds are earmarked for the respective countries as follows:
The legal basis
The legal basis for Switzerland’s contribution to EU enlargement can be found in the Federal Act of 24 March 2006 on cooperation with Eastern European countries and the CIS, which was approved by the Swiss population on 26 November 2006. Before this, Switzerland’s contribution was based on a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding between Switzerland and the EU, which was signed on 27 February 2006.
Despite having successfully navigated the transition from a centrally planned to a market-based system, these countries still lag behind their EU-15 peers in many respects. The average per capita income of the new EU member states is roughly half that of the EU-15 average. To help the new member states that joined the EU in 2004, Switzerland has pledged a total of CHF 1 billion, which will be spread over a period of five years (2007 – 2012).
Bulgaria and Romania, that joined the EU in 2007, are slated to receive support from the Swiss enlargement contribution in the amount of CHF 257 million (over the period 2009 - 2014).
New EU member states receive funding for projects in four thematic areas:
- Security and stability, and support for reforms;
- Environment and infrastructure;
- Promotion of the private sector;
- Human and social development.
In these areas, the partner states are far behind their EU-15 counterparts. Support is channelled primarily towards underdeveloped regions. Projects focus on improving health-care, improving the quality of air and water, and investing in education and training. These projects are implemented in close cooperation with the partner countries. National Coordination Units (NCUs) in the various partner countries are in charge of examining project proposals. Experts from the SDC and SECO decide which projects receive the necessary funding and coordinate and monitor implementation.
Switzerland’s commitment to the new EU member states is an expression of solidarity with Europe. As a responsible partner, Switzerland intends to shoulder part of the burden in helping Central and Eastern Europe to grow. At the same time, Switzerland is laying the foundation for solid economic and political ties with the new EU member states. Its contribution will also improve business prospects for Swiss companies in these new up-and-coming markets.
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Detailed information regarding Switzerland’s contribution to EU enlargement
More about how Switzerland’s contribution to EU enlargement is budget neutral in that it places no added burden on Swiss taxpayers and constitutes a reduction in southern aid.
More about the principles that guide operational implementation and about target-driven usage of funding
More about the social and economic situation in the new EU member states in Eastern Europe as well as about the cohesion policies pursued by both EU and EEA member states.
More about the legal basis
Technical cooperation provided to Eastern European countries by the SDC (part of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs)
Economic cooperation provided to Eastern European countries by SECO (part of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research)
Switzerland’s policy towards Europe (Directorate for European Affairs DEA / FDFA)