Half-way there: agreements signed with 8 beneficiary states
8 out of 15 beneficiary states have agreed with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway so far on how to use the EEA and Norway Grants in the current period lasting until 2014. Negotiations with the remaining 7 countries continue. The amounts already set aside for NGO funds and green programmes exceed the allocation to these areas in the past round.
Delays in negotiations on the EEA and Norway Grants 2009-14 resulted in the late signing of the overall grant agreements (end-July 2010). Since then, the donor and beneficiary states have worked hard to make up for lost time and land agreements on country-specific priorities required before programmes can start. It is the joint ambition of the donor and beneficiary states that the programmes are initiated as soon as possible so that funding can be made available to projects.
Taking stock before the summer:
- Agreements have been reached with Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia
- Of the total €1.788 billion set aside until 2014, the use of €1.15 billion – equaling 64% – have been agreed:
- €400 million to programmes on environmental protection and climate change
- €201 million to programmes on human and social development
- €145.6 million to programmes aimed at protecting cultural heritage
- €114 million to programmes in the field of justice and home affairs
- €85.5 million is set aside for NGO funds
- €80 million to research and scholarship programmes
- More than 70 programmes will be implemented in cooperation with public entities in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway:
- 52 of these programmes have so far been agreed. These involve 22 public entities from the donor states (19 from Norway, 2 from Iceland, 1 from Liechtenstein) and 1 international partner (Council of Europe)
Agreeing national priorities
Last autumn, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway presented the beneficiary states with a choice of 32 programme areas. Since September 2010, negotiations have been ongoing between the three donor states and each individual beneficiary state to agree on an estimated 10 programmes to be set up in each country. Once concluded, these are set out in framework agreements known as ‘Memoranda of Understanding’ (MoU) which also include details on the administrative set-up and cooperation with the donor states.
The aim is to target the funding in areas where the EEA and Norway Grants would fill a funding gap, and which are in line with shared European priorities.
Green investments and innovation
In the grant period until 2014, particular importance is given to environmental and climate efforts. A quarter of the funding will be set aside for ‘green’ programmes. In the agreements to date, €400 million is earmarked for environmental programmes. In Poland, one of the European countries with the highest levels of CO2 emissions, Norway will contribute €137 million to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) at Belchatów, the largest coal fuelled thermal power plant in Europe.
Funding to civil society in all countries
A minimum of €100 million which amounts to 10% of the EEA Grants in each country, is earmarked for new funds for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The 8 countries that have signed agreements so far have already managed to match the €85 million provided to civil society in the previous funding round. With 7 countries yet to agree on the size of these funding schemes for civil society, the total figure is likely to exceed €130 million.
More than 70 bilateral programmes
To strengthen partnership and exchange, several programmes will involve cooperation between public authorities in the donor and beneficiary states. As a rough estimate, as negotiations are ongoing, more than 70 programmes will be carried out in partnership between a donor state entity and a programme operator in the beneficiary state. In these, the national operators of the programmes in the beneficiary state will cooperate with one or several public entities from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway in the programme development and implementation. The programme partner will play an advisory role and help facilitate bilateral partnership projects.
MoUs signed: what are the next steps?
After the framework agreements have been signed, the beneficiary country begins the work by developing the programmes. In general, the programme operator will have been selected during the MoU process and this entity will then begin to work on the programme proposal – a process that may last up to 8 months. This programme proposal will need to be appraised and approved by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway before the programme operator can launch calls for project proposals. Given the progress so far, calls will most likely happen as of 2012. Potential applicants are nevertheless advised to subscribe to our newsletter (via the frontpage of www.eeagrants.org) and should regularly consult the EEA and Norway Grants' website, as some open calls might be announced in 2011.
Top photo: His Majesty King Harald of Norway and Slovenian President Dr Danilo Türk at the press conference following the signing of the agreements in Slovenia.