Status of the implementation of the EEA Grants in Poland
The implementation of the financial mechanisms is a joint effort from the donor states Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and the 13 beneficiary states, including Poland. This joint effort has the overall aim of reducing economic and social disparities, help integrate new EU member states into the Internal Market and strengthen bilateral relations. A successful outcome is dependent on cooperation, dialogue and mutual agreement between the donor states and the beneficiary states. Consequently, the donors have been engaged in a continuous dialogue, on the political as well as the technical level, with Poland and the other beneficiary states ever since the financial mechanisms were established in 2004.
In the case of Poland, the next high-level meeting scheduled is the next annual meeting between donor states and Poland already on 13 November 2006, which serves as the most important arena to bring up and resolve any outstanding issues related to the implementation of the financial mechanisms.
The Polish ministries of Regional Development and Environment held a joint press conference in Warsaw on Thursday 19 October 2006 and issued a press release entitled ‘Problems with the implementation of the EEA and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism'. The statements contained in the press release and the statements reported by Polish press from the press conference shows that there is considerable confusion about the status of implementation in Poland, which demands some clarifications from the Financial Mechanism Office. The FMO acts as the secretariat for the financial mechanisms on behalf of the donors Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
POLAND AND THE EEA GRANTS
- Poland is by far the biggest of the 13 beneficiary states of the financial mechanisms with a total gross allocation of 559 million euros, or nearly half the total amount made available via the financial mechanisms. The implementation of the mechanisms in Poland is of special importance and interest to the main donor Norway, as well as to the two other donors Iceland and Liechtenstein.
- The three donor states and Poland are all equally interested in ensuring that the financial mechanisms become a success in Poland, and that the grant assistance help realise high-quality projects to the public benefit and contribute towards reducing social and economic disparities.
- The donor states have chosen to provide the beneficiary states with a large degree of responsibility for implementing the financial mechanisms on the national level, including announcing open calls for proposals and prioritising incoming applications that should be sent for appraisal by the Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels, screening by the European Commission and donor decisions.
This responsibility of the beneficiary states also includes responsibilities vis-à-vis applicants, stakeholders, and donor states;
- to make the funding available according to the established regulatory framework
- to help applicants with the application procedures
- to inform and engage stakeholders from the civil society
- to establish working relations with the donor states based on cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding.
- Norway and the other two donors fully recognise that a successful outcome is dependent on close cooperation and mutual understanding with Poland and the other beneficiary states, and have established a close dialogue with Poland both on a technical level and on a political level to ensure and facilitate the implementation of the financial mechanisms on the national level.
SPECIFIC POINTS TO THE POLISH PRESS RELEASE OF 19 OCTOBER 2006
- The Polish press release indicates that the donor states are under an obligation to provide Poland with more than 100 million euro annually under the financial mechanisms. The actual obligation is however to make available more than 500 million euro over a five-year commitment period until April 2009, provided that Poland forwards quality projects equal of that amount.
- Should Poland fulfil this requirement, the donors are prepared to make positive decisions and ensure that disbursements are made accordingly, as they share Poland's interest in making the financial mechanisms a success.
- The role of the Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels is to facilitate both donor states and beneficiary states in the implementation process, organise a thorough appraisal of all applications prioritised by the beneficiary states, ensure that applications are screened by the EC and make grant recommendations.
- After the first Polish call for proposals closed in November 2005, the first few applications arrived to the FMO in April 2006, but the FMO is still receiving applications from that call; as of 20 October 2006, 138 of the 147 expected applications had been sent to the FMO from the Polish Focal Point.
- While the donors and the FMO share Poland's interest in approving the applications as quickly as possible, the experience of the FMO and donors so far with the appraisal procedures shows that there is a clear need for a thorough appraisal of the Polish projects by the FMO to safeguard the quality of the projects. That Polish authorities ask for the evaluation carried out by Polish implementing units to be seen as is sufficient, is not supported by the experience so far.
- The FMO and the donors are continually striving to streamline procedures to make the decision-making process as expedient as possible. However, repeated requests by Poland to the FMO and donors to speed up their procedures at a time when the Polish Focal Point has not completed its task of prioritising applications and forward them to the FMO, seems both premature and inappropriate.
- Projects in the environment-sector were highlighted by the Polish side as an especially difficult area because of the large number of applications. The solution presented by the Polish side to this issue is to take away funding promised to the environment sector in future calls to fund environment projects within one specific focus area - thermo-insulation of public buildings. From the donor side this is not regarded to be in line with the signed MoU.
- The Polish suggestion of making just one call for proposals for the remaining funding available would be a deviation from the agreement between donors and Poland.
Since May there have been several meetings discussions about the size and timing of two future calls for proposals, with the latest meeting between representatives from the main donor Norway and the FMO taking place in Warsaw on 13 October 2006.
KEY FACTS ABOUT THE IMPLEMENTATION IN POLAND
- Memoranda of Understanding for the financial mechanisms signed in Oct 2004
- First call for proposals announced on 30 Aug 2005, closed on 30 Nov 2005
- Total value of first call for proposals: 176 million euros
- A total 1,390 applications was submitted for a total value of 1.6 billion euros. The oversubscription rate of close to 10 times the amount available is comparable to call for proposals in other beneficiary states
- Poland expects to forward 147 applications to the FMO for appraisal, screening by the EC and donor decision from the first call for proposals
- By 20 October 2006, 138 out of the 147 applications had been received, meaning that the FMO were still waiting for Poland to complete its prioritisation of applications more than a year after the first call was announced
In addition to making funding available through open calls for proposals, Poland committed already in October 2004 when signing the MoUs to establish a total four block grants, or funds, that would provide targeted funding to special groups:
- a fund for NGOs of a total value of more than 40 million euros
- a scholarship and training fund of 16 million euros
- a Polish-Norwegian research fund of 13 million euros
- a seed money fund to assist promising project ideas of 2 million euros
The Polish Focal Point has so far applied for one of four block grant applications. This is for the Polish-Norwegian Research Fund, which was first submitted in June but which needed substantial re-drafting. A revised application was resubmitted on 11 Oct.
STATUS OF IMPLEMENTATION IN POLAND
As of 20 October 2006, the status of applications forwarded by the Polish Focal Point as a result of the first open call announced in August 2005 was as follows:
- Of the 147 applications expected to be forwarded by the Polish Focal Point to the FMO for appraisal from the first call for proposals, 138 applications have been received:
- 19 applications in April 2006
- 12 applications in May 2006
- 20 applications in June 2006
- 30 applications in July 2006
- 7 applications in August 2006
- 0 applications in September 2006
- 50 applications in October 2006
- 9 applications still not received
- Of the 138 applications the FMO has received, 82 applications have been sent to screening by the European Commission, which has concluded its screening process for 59 applications. The first of these requests for screening were sent in May 2006, and since then the requests for screening by the European Commission have been sent on a continuous basis.
- Of the 138 applications received by Poland so far, 7 projects have been prepared for decision. Descisions on projects will be made continuously and the result communicated to The Polish Focal Point in line with agreed procedures.