Six Bulgarian programmes launched today
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have today signed agreements with Bulgaria launching the country’s first six programmes of the current funding period. The programmes cover civil society, children and youth, green industry innovation, institutional cooperation and capacity building, and judicial reform and correctional services.
Bulgaria has been allocated €126.6 million for 2009-2014; up from €41.5 million for 2007-2009. In total, 15 programmes are to be established which will fund a portfolio of projects in different sectors. Almost €12 million will go to support Bulgarian civil society. At least 10% is set aside to improve the situation of the Roma.
Strengthening civil society is an important area of support under the grant schemes. The newly launched €11.8 million NGO Fund will support projects in Bulgaria promoting democratic values, including human rights and good governance, combating discrimination and tackling social inequalities. Empowering vulnerable groups, such as Roma, is also an important concern. While applicants need to be registered as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Bulgaria, entities from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway may participate as project partners. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee will facilitate contacts and cooperation with NGOs in Norway.
Children and youth at risk
Improving care and well-being of disadvantaged children and young people is the focus of the €7.9 million programme on children and youth at-risk. Carried out in partnership with the Council of Europe (CoE), the programme will be run by Bulgaria’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Science. Key priorities include improving school attendance, particularly of Roma children, and widening access to pre-school day-care for underprivileged families.
Justice and home affairs
The CoE is also partnering with the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice on a €3 million programme aiming to achieve a fairer and more efficient judicial system. Key priorities include improving access to justice and speeding up case handling. A further €7 million is being provided to improve the country’s correctional services. This will help raise standards in prisons and promote alternatives to imprisonment.
Green industry innovation
Primarily targeting small and medium-sized enterprises, the green industry innovation programme is a new business development programme. Worth €13.7 million, this is one of the largest programmes to be established in Bulgaria. It aims to stimulate ‘eco-innovation’ in business and support the greening of local industries. The programme is run by Innovation Norway and will promote business-to-business cooperation between the two countries.
Capacity building and institutional cooperation
Supported by a Grant of €2 million, another important programme is designed to bolster Bulgaria’s institutional capacity and promote institutional cross-border cooperation at local and regional level. The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities and the Barents Secretariat are involved as partners to contribute with their knowledge and experience.
The EEA and Norway Grants contribute to increased cooperation and stronger relations between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and the 15 beneficiary countries. In Bulgaria, most programmes will be implemented in partnership with entities from the donor countries or with the involvement of the Council of Europe. Project partnerships are also encouraged. At national level and in each of the programmes, bilateral funds are available to support networking and facilitate contacts and cooperation.
The programme operators are now starting to prepare calls for project proposals. Expected towards the end of this year, calls will be published on the website of the programme operators as well as www.eeagrants.org. Projects funded under the programmes are set to run until 2016.
Photo: Norwegian State Secretary, Gry Larsen, and Bulgarian Minister of EU Funds Management, Tomislav Donchev, at the launch
Credit: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs