Bilateral partnerships at both project and programme levels
Strengthening bilateral relations between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and the 15 beneficiary states is an overarching objective of the EEA and Norway Grants. To encourage strategic and long-term cooperation, partnerships at the programme level are introduced alongside continued possibilities for project cooperation.
The agreements negotiated with the European Union for the EEA Grants and Norway Grant 2009-14 define strengthened bilateral relations between the donor states and the beneficiary states as an overall objective of the grant schemes. A number of measures have been made to secure a more strategic approach to bilateral cooperation during this new phase.
Donor programme partnerships
A new feature is the introduction of donor programme partnerships which involves strategic cooperation and transfer of knowledge between public authorities in the donor states and the beneficiary states. A donor state programme partner will act as an advisor to the national programme operator in the preparation and implementation of the programme, and also help facilitate partnerships at project level. The costs of the donor programme partners will be covered as part of the management costs of the donor states, and thus be kept outside the programme budget. It is expected that the partnerships at the programme level will open for more substantive and long-term cooperation.
Seed money and bilateral funds
Lessons learned from the 2004-09 funding period have been taken into account in the new regulatory framework by introducing various measures to encourage bilateral cooperation at programme and project level. The lack of seed money for developing partnership was previously identified as an impediment. Within all beneficiary states, bilateral funds will now be set aside both at the national level and within all programmes for networking and exchange and/or for the establishment and development of partnerships and the preparation of applications for donor partnership projects.
- In each beneficiary state, at least 0.5% of the country’s total allocation will be set aside for a bilateral fund to facilitate outreach and networking between programme operators and donor programme partners, or potential project partners from the donor states. These bilateral funds will be available also before the programmes have been fully developed and approved by the foreign ministries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
- Within each programme, at least 1.5% of the available funding will be earmarked for the search for project partners from the donor states, the development of bilateral partnerships and the preparation of applications for donor partnership projects. The funding will also be used to support additional networking and exchange with entities in the donor states for approved projects.
- The programme operators may also spend some funds on activities that may strengthen their cooperation with similar entities in the donor states.
Potential donor programme partners identified
Agreements on the programmes to be carried out as donor partnership programmes and the involved public entities in the donor states will be reached between the donor states and the beneficiary states in the so-called Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) negotiations.
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have identified a number of public authorities in the donor states – based on thorough assessments of their capacity, competence and previous international experience – that have agreed to potentially take on the role as donor programme partners. The Financial Mechanism Office, the Brussels-based secretariat of the grant schemes, will train, and provide advice and support to these institutions.
For further details on bilateral relations under the EEA Grants and Norway Grants, see Chapter 3 of the Regulation.
Photo: Illustrative picture from partnership project PL0100. Photo courtesy of GIOS.