Improving justice and home affairs
The Norway Grants have strengthened European police cooperation, improved prison conditions, and contributed in the fight against organised crime.
The Schengen agreement provides a border-free zone between 26 European countries. Millions of people can travel between most EU countries as well as the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, without showing their passports when crossing borders. Passport controls are only carried upon entering or leaving the Schengen area, meaning that each participating country also guards its own external borders on behalf of all the other countries.
Fighting organised crime
During the 2004-2009 funding period, most of the new EU member states became fully operational members of Schengen and consequently responsible for shoring up huge parts of EU’s Eastern border. Under the Norway Grants, €132,5 million was set aside to help new Schengen members implement the Schengen acquis, strengthening the judiciary , provide training and improve prison infrastructure, totalling around 11% of all Grants awarded. Support was largely concentrated in Poland and Latvia but funding was also provided for Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia. The support targeted the fight against organised and transnational crime, illegal immigration and general law enforcement in Poland. By investing in state of the art technology, 71 border crossings were improved and secured, making Poland better equipped to protect EU’s external border and to fight organised crime.
The support also helped improve prison conditions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania through new and improved rehabilitation programmes for inmates and training for staff. One such programme was introduced in the Zemgale region in Latvia. The new re-socialisation programmes at the Jelgava and Jakabpils prisons focused on language skills and basic education, thereby giving the convicts a better chance of reintegrating into society once they are released. The Office of the Country Governor in Hordaland, Norway provided expertise on re-socialisation for the project. In total, 16 projects in the Schengen and judiciary sector involved Norwegian partners.