Parliament sets the course for the ETH Domain during winter session

In its winter session (30 November – 18 December 2020), the Federal Parliament will deal with various matters of great importance to the ETH Domain: it will debate the ETH Law, the budget of the ETH Domain and the Swiss contribution to the EU research programme Horizon Europe.
Among the issues on the agenda for the next parliamentary session is Switzerland's participation in Horizon Europe. (Image: Pixabay)

The success of the ETH Domain is based on three pillars: Switzerland's openness and internationality, sufficient and stable funding from the federal government, and autonomy. All three pillars will be subjects of discussion during the Federal Parliament’s winter session. Its decisions will determine whether the ETH Domain can continue to operate as successfully for the benefit of the Swiss economy and society as it has done up to now.

National Council to debate Switzerland's association with Horizon Europe

The ETH Domain depends on relations between Switzerland and the EU being properly regulated. The focus here is on the free movement of persons and the EU research framework programmes. The Council of States adopted the Horizon Package 2021–2027 in the autumn session. On 16 December it will be the National Council’s turn. It, too, is likely to approve the funding for Switzerland's full association as soon as possible. However, this does not yet guarantee Switzerland's participation in Horizon Europe. The exact modalities of participation have not been finalised and will be the subject of negotiations between Switzerland and the EU.

Differences of opinion regarding the ETH Law

The ETH Law forms the basic framework for the autonomy, mission and organisation of the ETH Domain and its institutions. It is currently being revised. The amendments to the law relate in particular to corporate governance, personnel law and the implementation of recommendations proposed by the Swiss Federal Audit Office. The National Council and Council of States do not agree on all points. There are still differences of opinion on two issues: first, whether the two Federal Institutes of Technology and the four research institutes' right of appeal against decisions of the ETH Board should be restricted; and second, whether the ETH Board or the Federal Council should elect the members of the ETH Appeals Commission. It is uncertain whether these differences can already be resolved in the winter session.

The ETH Domain needs sufficient and stable federal funding

Almost ninety percent of the funds provided to the ETH Domain come directly or indirectly – i.e. via the SNSF, Innosuisse or EU research framework programmes – from the federal government. In the winter session, Parliament adopts the federal budget for the following year, including that of the ETH Domain. Every four years, Parliament also adopts the Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI Dispatch). Roughly speaking, this deals with the finances, tasks and goals for the next four years of those ERI players that are (co-)financed by the federal government. Both items are on the agenda for the winter session this year. Parliament is aware of the great importance of research, education and innovation for the prosperity of our country. Despite the additional expenditure and expected revenue shortfalls resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, it is expected to refrain from any spending cuts in the ERI area for the time being.

Winter session programme and debates

The winter session is taking place from 30 November to 18 December. You can follow the debates in the National Council and the Council of States live at Here you will also find the session programmes, which show the business on the two chambers’ agenda along with the times it is scheduled for.