Turkey gets green light to join EU schemes, UK still waiting

Turkey gets green light to join EU schemes, UK still waiting
Turkish and EU officials struck a deal. Credit: EC

On Wednesday, Turkey was given the go-ahead to join the EU’s flagship research, education and youth programmes while the United Kingdom’s bid to stay involved in European initiatives remains stalled because of Brexit.

Certain non-EU countries are allowed to participate in schemes like Erasmus+, Horizon Europe and the European Solidarity Corps, providing they fulfil certain criteria, such as membership of the European Economic Area or EU candidate status.

Turkey is joining the likes of Iceland and Norway in securing access to programmes that are worth billions of euros in funding and which are extremely popular. Three agreements signed with the European Commission this week will grant access until 2027.

“Turkish participation in the new generation of our EU programmes will reinforce their capacities and support integration into the European Research Area and European Education Area,” said EU education and innovation chief Mariya Gabriel.

It marks a continuation of a collaboration between Brussels and Ankara that dates back to 2003. Turkish researchers enjoyed €277 million in funding under the last Horizon programme, while more than €700 million was allocated under the Erasmus+ scheme.

The United Kingdom would also like access to some of those initiatives, which was mostly negotiated under the Brexit withdrawal agreement and which came with a roughly €2 billion price tag. But predictably, things have soured since that deal was struck.

UK researchers will have to keep waiting for their chance to get a slice of the €95 billion Horizon Europe programme, as a now long-running dispute over Northern Ireland risks jeopardising their participation.

Talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol continue and earlier this month, Commissioner Gabriel confirmed that Horizon approval will have to wait until a full agreement on a “transversal issue” is brokered first. Access to the Copernicus satellite system is also on ice.

The UK Government has no intention of remaining in the Erasmus+ exchange scheme and has instead unveiled plans to set up its own version.

Attempts by the Scottish and Welsh governments to keep Erasmus+ access were rebuffed by the EU, while Northern Irish students and academics will be sponsored by the Irish Government.

Switzerland is another non-EU applicant that is in limbo, following its government’s decision not to renew a bilateral treaty with the EU. Talks are still ongoing and Horizon Europe access, in particular, is blocked until the matter is resolved.

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