Green and social issues in focus in Bulgaria
Environmental and social issues are key priorities in the agreements on EEA and Norway Grants signed with Bulgaria today. Green innovation, energy efficiency, human trafficking and the Roma population will be in focus.
Of the €126.6 million of funding set aside for Bulgaria up until 2014, €43 million will be spent on environment and climate change issues. This will include investments in developing green companies (€13.7 million) and investments to reduce energy consumption and introduce renewable energy (€13.3 million).
On the social agenda, the aim is that 10% of the EEA and Norway Grants will be used to improve the situation for the Roma. “The Roma are probably the most stigmatised group in Europe today. Two key factors for social inclusion are education and the opportunity to keep their culture alive. The Council of Europe will be an important partner in this respect, and will help to ensure that the EEA and Norway Grants meet these targets in Bulgaria,” said Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre.
In addition, priority will be given to assistance to victims of human trafficking and violence in close relationships. A total of €18 million will be used to fund programmes in the justice and home affairs sector. The Council of Europe will be an important partner also in this field.
“The fight against human trafficking and organised crime can only be won through international cooperation. These criminal bands are mobile and respect no boundaries. I am pleased that Bulgaria and Norway have agreed to give priority to this issue in connection with the EEA and Norway Grants” commented Støre.
Funding of €6 million will be made available for strengthening border control in Bulgaria both on land and at sea, and cooperation between the police in the Schengen area will also be enhanced. The Norwegian Police Directorate is involved in this cooperation.
The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities has been engaged to strengthen competence and capacity in local and regional administration. One of the projects addresses challenges and opportunities in Bulgaria’s border areas. The Barents Secretariat in Kirkenes will share its experience in this connection.
Photo: Christian Grotnes Halvorsen, NMFA