Result in focus: achievements of the EEA and Norway Grants in Bulgaria
EEA and Norway Grants successes in Bulgaria pave way for strengthened cooperation in new funding period. A photo exhibition featuring some of the 66 financed projects and funds will travel across Bulgaria over the next two months.
Speaking at a conference held on 31 May in Sofia, Bulgarian Minister for European Funds, Tomislav Donchev, and Norwegian Ambassador to Bulgaria H.E. Tove Skarstein, highlighted some of the key achievements of the EEA and Norway Grants in Bulgaria from 2004-09, which had an implementation deadline of spring 2011. 66 Bulgarian projects and funds were supported in areas such as environmental protection and energy efficiency, Schengen and the judiciary, cultural heritage, health and childcare and capacity building in the public sector.
Cooperation between Bulgaria and Norway
Ambassador Skarstein highlighted the significant contribution of the grants to strengthen bilateral ties and to bring actors from the donor states and the beneficiary state together. Half of the individual projects supported in Bulgaria in the period 2007– 09 involved cooperation with Norwegian organisations, and partnership projects are also encouraged in the new programmes.
Increased funding in the period to 2014
Minister Donchev and Ambassador Skarstein also set out the directions for the future programmes, which in the period until 2014 have been allocated €126.6 million. Bulgaria is currently negotiating with the three donor states – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - on the overall priorities for the grants, with funding expected to be made available to applicants in 2012 Norway provides 97% of the total funding..
Travelling photo exhibition
The conference also marked the official opening of the travelling photo exhibition “Results in Focus” which provides a visual illustration of some of the projects already backed by the grants. From 5 June onwards the photos will be on display in the garden of the National Theatre in Sofia before travelling to five other cities across the country - Plovdiv, Bourgas, Varna, Gabrovo and Blagoevgrad - until the end of the July.
Key achievements 2007-09
Following its entry into the EU and EEA in 2007, Bulgaria became a beneficiary of the EEA and Norway Grants. Over the last years, Bulgaria received €41.5 million to fund social and economic development projects and strengthen cooperation with entities in the three donor states.
Biodiversity and environmental protection
The largest supported sector in Bulgaria was renewable energy and environmental protection, with more than €16 million set aside for green projects. The investments contributed to safeguarding biodiversity, improving air quality, increasing the use of renewable energy and introducing energy efficiency measures in public buildings.
Preservation of cultural heritage
Close to €5 million was spent on restoring historically significant monuments, including the Shoumen Fortress and the ancient Stadium of Philippopolis, as well as on digitalisation of historical periodicals and manuscripts. During excavations at St. Ivan island, which formed part of a larger restoration project of the fifth-century Monastery of John the Forerunner and the Baptist, Bulgarian archaeologists discovered what is believed to be relics of St. John the Baptist.
Focus on children and youth
A large part of the €4.6 million health funding was spent on improving the standards and facilities of nursery and childcare services in several Bulgarian municipalities. Other supported activities include efforts to improve mental health care, strengthen child care policy, and prevent and fight addictions. A new centre in Sofia offering treatment services for children and adolescents was opened by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in April.