Open Days: Local and regional capacity building
Regional development, cross-border cooperation and public sector capacity building were the themes of the day at this week's presentation of the EEA and Norway Grants at the Open Days in Brussels.
Regional policy, cross-border activities and capacity building at the local and regional level are central priorities of the EEA and Norway Grants. A total of 130 projects and funds within this area are supported. Poland is the largest beneficiary of such projects, followed by the Baltic States, Bulgaria and Romania.
Deputy Director General Steinar Hagen from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs held the opening address of the seminar, and emphasised that contributing to the social and economic development at local and regional levels in the beneficiary states constitutes a key priority of the EEA and Norway Grants. Building capacity and strengthening competencies in the public sector contributes to increased overall sector efficiency and improves the quality of services rendered to local residents. In 2011, more than 50 000 civil servants in the beneficiary states will have received training through the supported projects.
Hagen further emphasized that the EEA and Norway Grants support and encourage cross-border cooperation, with 27 projects involving partnerships with authorities and institutions in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and in the Western Balkans. The EEA and Norway Grants contribute to stimulate and strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the donor states and the beneficiary countries. Nearly 1 in 5 projects within this priority sector are carried out in partnerships with Norwegian authorities, institutions and businesses.
Senior Adviser Knut Hjort-Johansen from the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) shared his organisation's experiences within the field of international cooperation, and Dr. Tomasz Potkański from the Association of Polish Cities presented the "Building Capacity for Better Local Public Services Delivery in Poland" project, which is carried out in partnership with KS.
In Poland, local government authorities are responsible for 1/3 of total public expenditures, and carry out 67 % of all investments in the public sector. Thus, a considerable degree of the responsibility for developing infrastructure and assuring the quality of public services lies at the local authority level, and capacity building initiatives are important to secure local residents' welfare.
Latvian cross-border fund
Vita Prokopovica from the Latvian Ministry of Regional Development and Local Government presented the Latvian fund for cross-border cooperation, which is financed by the Norway Grants. One of the projects supported by the fund aims to develop a common strategy for regional development of the Latgale region in Latvia and the Pskov region in Russia. Such projects contribute to developing sustainable and lively local communities across national borders, Prokopovica said.
The presentations from the EEA and Norway Grants session are available online:
Steinar Hagen:"The EEA and Norway Grants – regional and local development"
Tomasz Potkański:"Joint Polish-Norwegian project: 'Building Capacity for Better Local Public Services Delivery in Poland'"
Vita Prokopovica:"Promoting Regional Development through Cross-Border Cooperation"
The Open Days are taking place between October 5 and 8, and are part of the European Week of Regions and Cities.