Drawing countries together
The EEA Grants have expanded and strengthened the good relations between Norway and Portugal, said State Secretary Elisabeth Walaas from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at a conference on the EEA Grants in Lisbon on September 7.
In her opening address, Walaas said that Norway's contribution towards reducing social and economic disparities in Europe waw a sign of solidarity. The EEA Grants have strengthened and expanded the bilateral cooperation which has been going on between Norway and Portugal since the Portuguese revolution in 1974.
State Secretary João Ferrão from the Portuguese Ministry of the Environment, Spatial Planning and Regional Development said that the EEA Grants constitute an important supplement to the EU Cohesion and Structural Funds. The EEA Grants support projects that are not eligible for support through the EU funds, and differ markedly from the EU funds by having a strong emphasis on bilateral cooperation, Ferrão said.
Walaas also attended a seminar on operational oceanography conducted as part of the MONICAN project; an environmental monitoring project which will contribute to a more effective protection and restoration of marine ecosystems off the Portuguese coast. MONICAN is carried out as a cooperation project between the Portuguese Hydrographic Institute, the Norwegian research equipment provider OCEANOR and SINTEF, a Norwegian research organisation specialising in sustainable development.
Several site visits to projects funded by the EEA Grants were also part of the official programme. These included a visit to Vale da Amoreira, a Lisbon suburb which is part of a major pilot project on rehabilitation of marginalised urban areas; and to Chapitô, a cultural center receiving support through the NGO fund to promote non-discrimination and integration. Walaas also visited Sintra, a world heritage site where two historical buildings and a park are being renovated with funding from the EEA Grants.
Environmental protection, sustainable development and conservation of the European cultural heritage are the key priority sectors sponsored by the EEA Grants in Portugal. Portugal is the beneficiary state with the largest percentage of projects involving partnerships with institutions or actors from the donor states: 14 of 29 individual projects have Norwegian partners.