Strengthening bilateral relations is one of the two main objectives of the EEA and Norway Grants. In addition to continued possibilities for project partnerships, bilateral partnerships at programme level ensure more strategic, in-depth and sustainable cooperation.
In the agreement between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and the EU on the EEA and Norway Grants 2009–2014,the objective of strengthening bilateral relations is given equal importance to the objective of reducing social and economic disparities.
The programme approach is designed to ensure more targeted support, and is also the platform for more strategic cooperation between public bodies in the donor and beneficiary countries. The agreed priority sectors reflect important issues on the European and global agenda as well as areas where the donor countries have expertise and interests for cooperation. The agreed programmes are of interest to both the beneficiary and donor countries.
The forging of ties at programme and project level in a broad range of areas is expected to further strengthen cooperation between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and the beneficiary countries after the individual programme or project has ended.
To enhance cooperation and exchange, more than half of the 150 programmes involve cooperation with donor programme partners. 23 public bodies from the donor countries as well as the Council of Europe are actively involved at the programme level, working closely with their counterparts – the programme operators – in the beneficiary countries. The partnerships at programme level are important for achieving the objective of strengthened bilateral relations, since the partnerships promote professional cooperation between public authorities at a policy level.
These partnerships were mutually agreed between the donor and beneficiary countries during the negotiations of the Memoranda of Understanding – framework agreements with each country on how to implement the funding.
The role of the donor programme partners is to act as strategic advisers to the programme operators and contribute with their expertise in both the programme planning and implementation. They also give advice on the selection of projects awarded funding under the programmes and inform possible project partners in the donor states about cooperation possibilities. This aims to be mutually beneficial and enriching for both parties.
The Council of Europe is involved as a programme partner on behalf of the donor countries in 21 programmes.
Project partnerships between entities in the beneficiary and donor countries are encouraged in all programmes. In some programmes, project partnerships with the donor countries are mandatory. A partnership project is a joint project where input from both partners is necessary to achieve the objectives of the project.
Within each programme incentives are available to stimulate such partnerships.
How to participate?
Funding for projects is made available through open calls for project proposals under each programme. The applicant needs to be a registered entity in the relevant beneficiary country or an intergovernmental organisation operating in the country. Entities from the donor countries may participate in the projects as partners. The cooperation needs to be detailed in a partnership agreement that details the respective roles and responsibilities as well as the budget to be allocated to each participating entity. This information should form part of the project application.
Please note: A project partnership should not be confounded with a commercial contract for delivery of goods and services. All programmes have to respect the EEA and national regulation for public procurement and state aid.
At a national level in each beneficiary country, 0.5% of the total country allocation is set aside for activities of bilateral interest developing cooperation with the donor countries.
These bilateral funds finance initiatives such as conferences, workshops, study tours, studies and reports, as well as outreach activities which could add value to and broaden the cooperation that takes place within the programmes. The funds may also provide a source of funding for initiatives of interest to both the donor and beneficiary countries going beyond the programmes.
The national Focal Points are in charge of managing these bilateral funds on the basis of work plans approved by the donor countries. Find out more about the opportunities under the national bilateral funds in each of the beneficiary countries.
During the programme planning stage, a number of beneficiary countries have used part of these bilateral funds for exploratory visits and study tours to learn from the donor countries’ experience or to plan for future bilateral cooperation in the programmes.
At the programme level, 1.5% of the budget is allocated to bilateral funds. This funding is intended to help facilitate the search for project partners, the development of joint project applications and networking and exchange between project promoters and entities in the donor countries.
Measuring strengthened relations
The EEA and Norway Grants apply results based management and we will measure how well the objective of strengthened bilateral relations is being met.
However, the challenge is to measure such a broad multi-faceted concept. Bilateral relations between countries refer to political, economic, cultural and historic ties. Strong bilateral relations are characterised by cooperation between institutions and persons at administrative and political level, as well as in the private sector, academia and civil society. It includes general knowledge, understanding and public awareness about the other country and the ties existing between them.
For the EEA and Norway Grants, bilateral relations have been defined as “Cooperation, joint results, and increased mutual knowledge and understanding between donor and beneficiary states as a function of the EEA and Norway Grants”.
In addition to the reporting by the programme operators and the national Focal Points, external reviews is carried out to measure the development over time with regard to the following parameters: extent of cooperation, shared results, improved knowledge and mutual understanding as well as wider effects beyond the specific project and programme cooperation.
A baseline study was carried out in 2012, and subsequent studies to assess to what extent such relations have been strengthened as a result of the EEA and Norway Grants during the period 2009-2014 will be carried out mid-term and by the end of the grant period. Find out more.