Since 2008, Switzerland has been participating in various projects designed to reduce the economic and social disparities in an enlarged EU, with CHF 1.302 billion. Switzerland decides autonomously which projects it will support and agrees this directly with the partner countries. Switzerland’s commitment to EU enlargement is an expression of solidarity. At the same time, Switzerland is consolidating the basis on which to build solid economic and political ties with the EU and its member states.
The Swiss contribution in brief
On 26 November 2006, the Swiss population voted in favour of the Federal Act on Cooperation with the States of Eastern Europe. In doing so, they signalled their approval for financial support aimed at reducing economic and social disparities in the enlarged EU. For despite the rapid growth that characterised 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 wide.
In June 2007, Parliament approved a framework credit of CHF 1 billion for the ten states that joined the EU in 2004. In December 2009, it approved a second framework credit of CHF 257 million for Bulgaria and Romania, which joined in 2007. In December 2014, Parliament approved the contribution of CHF 45 million to Croatia, which joined the EU on 1 July 2013.
The distribution of the enlargement contribution among the thirteen partner states is based on a distribution formula established on the basis of population size and per capita income. In Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, more than 40% of the project budget flows to the structurally weak regions.
Is Switzerland making a contribution to the EU Cohesion Fund with its enlargement contribution?
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. The Swiss enlargement contribution is being implemented independently of these funds. It is misleading whenever either the term “Cohesion Fund” or “Cohesion Payment” is used instead of the term “Enlargement Contribution” because these terms are normally used to refer to the instruments of the EU’s cohesion policy. The Swiss enlargement contribution is not part of the EU’s cohesion policy, nor does Switzerland make any cohesion payments to the EU. With its autonomous enlargement contribution Switzerland finances specific, high quality projects with the aim of reducing the economic and social disparities in the 13 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 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 in the country concerned. 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.