Grants launch in Greece - a ‘catalyst’ for strengthening ties
“The EEA Grants are a catalyst and one of the most important pillars of the bilateral relations between Norway and Greece.”
This was the sentiment expressed by Mr Sjur Larsen, Norwegian Ambassador to Greece, when speaking at the launch event of the EEA Grants held in Athens on 28 November.
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are providing €63.4 million in grant funding to five programmes in Greece- marine and water management, renewable energy, the NGO fund, asylum and migration, and research. The funding period officially runs from 2009 to 2014 but projects can be implemented until 2016.
Held in the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, the launch attracted wide interest with representatives from ministries, local and regional authorities, NGOs and private companies all taking part.
Building on good work
The choice of venue was itself significant – the Academy of Athens received €420 000 from the previous round of EEA Grants towards a €1 million project which saw the expansion the Hellenic Cord Blood Bank capacity. A cord blood bank is a facility which stores umbilical cord blood for future use. It can play an important role in the treatment of blood and immune system-related genetic diseases, or as was the case for this project, help cure paediatric leukaemia.
In his opening speech, Ambassador Larsen went on to emphasise the high expectations for the bilateral cooperation that can be stimulated through the EEA Grants. “It is important to continue and build on the good work already carried out in the previous funding round 2004-2009,” he remarked.
Secretary General Giorgos Yannoussis, Greek Ministry of Development and Competitiveness and Ambassador Ingrid Schulerud, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also took to the floor during the opening session. Konstantinos Koukolias, Head of the Greek Focal Point, presented the overall direction and priorities for the Grants for this new funding period.
Participants then heard a series of presentations on each individual programme, explaining the steps and procedures involved and timelines for applying for funding.
The Ambassador drew special attention to the €20 million asylum and migration programme which has already seen notable success. Over the past ten years, Greece has become the major gateway for migrants and asylum seekers from Asia and Africa trying to enter the EU. An estimated 300 asylum seekers enter Greece every day.
The large number of arrivals is a considerable challenge for Greece where the economic crisis continues to hit hard. The programme aims to help improve the asylum system in Greece and ensure better protection and care for migrants.
New opportunities for NGOs
Coinciding with the overall launch event was the first call for project applications under the NGO programme “We are all Citizens”. This is the first NGO programme funded by the Grants in Greece and comes at a time of critical need. Against a challenging economic backdrop, it is essential that NGOs are able to advocate for vulnerable groups and provide key services, particularly to the most deprived.
Speaking ahead of the event, Ms Ingvild Næss Stub, Secretary of State to the Norwegian Minister of EEA and EU Affairs, said: "We are immensely proud to launch the very first EEA Grants NGO programme in Greece. NGOs are critical change agents in promoting human rights and social progress - and we hope that our support will strengthen civil society in Greece.”
Call for project proposals under all of the programmes are expected to be launched during the first half of 2014. Keep up to date with the calls calendar! You can read about all the programmes funded in Greece here