Programme Swiss Baltic Net:
supporting the younger generation in exchanges
1999 – 2011
Gebert Rüf Stiftung is active in the promotion of young academic talent in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This is the only area of activity laid down by the founder in the statement of purpose. It is also the only area of activity where the centre of grant-making activities is located outside Switzerland. It is to be maintained for as long as the level of development «is not comparable with that in Western Europe» (quotation from the foundation charter).
Focuses grant-making in eastern Europe
To implement this commitment to eastern Europe, the Swiss Baltic Net was established in 2000. This grant-making programme supports the building of scholarly relationships and development of scientific exchanges between Switzerland and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Close ties already existed between the Baltic states and likewise small and neutral Switzerland during the first period of Baltic independence, between the two World Wars.
Young scientists as multipliers
Young academics particularly from the Baltic countries receive stipends for stays in Switzerland to attend conferences and engage in research and study. Stays by young scholars at Swiss universities are especially effective because they generate sustainability in the form of ongoing contacts and collaboration. For this reason the emphasis is on individual support. As part of Eastern European Day at the University of Fribourg, the Swiss Baltic Net Prize is awarded annually to personalities from the Baltic states or Switzerland who have made extraordinary contributions to Swiss-Baltic scientific ties.
The Baltic is back in Europe
Since their independence in the early 1990s and in particular following their accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have developed very rapidly and turned in impressive growth rates for many years. At the same time, at university level the Bologna reforms led to a strong process of integration in the European higher education area which is enabling large numbers of students and postgraduates to spend time studying and engaging in research abroad. In addition, since 2008 projects in the education sector have also been supported by the Swiss federal government through Switzerland's enlargement contribution for the new EU member states, loosely referred to as the «eastern Europe billion» (Cohesion Fund). Because of these positive developments, the support requirements for Swiss Baltic Net have changed greatly since its establishment in 1998-99. The program was therefore discontinued at the end of 2008, although a number of activities will still be monitored until 2010 in a phasing-out process.
The Swiss Baltic Net still exists as Swiss-Baltic platform but independently of Gebert Rüf Stiftung.
Follow-on programme ASCN
Since 2009, Gebert Rüf Stiftung has continued to be actively involved in eastern Europe through the Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN), which it operates in cooperation with the University of Fribourg/Freiburg.