Partnership Guide

Participate in the EEA and Norway Grants!

Guide to project partnerships for entities from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021  

What is this guide

The EEA and Norway Grants offer a unique opportunity for entities from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein to address European societal and economic challenges in cooperation with professional organisations from 15 EU countries. Entities from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein cannot apply for funds directly. They can, however, become partners in projects initiated by organisations in one of the 15 beneficiary countries. This guide is a resource for entities in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway who want to know more about project cooperation under the EEA and Norway Grants (1). 

(1) The guide is intended for potential and actual donor project partners participating in project cooperation under the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-21Please note that the guide is provided for information purposes only and does not form part of the legal framework governing the EEA and Norway Grants. We have sought to reference relevant parts of the legal framework throughout the text for ease of reference. However, this is not intended to replace the consultation of the legal framework where appropriate. In case of any inconsistency in the present text with the legal framework of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-21, the legal framework shall prevail.

Why should I get involved?

"We decided to participate, hoping to gain new knowledge and experience, establish new connections and to see if there were possibilities for future revenue."

Fredrik Gaustad, Inergo, project partner in Romania and Bulgaria

Why should I become a donor project partner?

Being a project partner under the EEA and Norway Grants can be both rewarding and exciting, and the benefits are many. Partnerships under the EEA and Norway Grants offer a unique opportunity, funding initiatives where you may address European societal and economic challenges in cooperation with professional organisations from the beneficiary countries. 

European cooperation can give your entity the possibility to address issues of importance to both donor and beneficiary countries and create links with European professional networks. 

As a project partner, you gain international experience and cultural competence. You get the opportunity to strengthen your presentation and communication skills in a new and international environment. For some, the project cooperation may serve as a stepping stone towards more extensive international participation and involvement in larger European cooperation projects. 

Partnering under the Grants gives you access to knowledge, experience and facilities in your field. Meeting sister entities and colleagues from across Europe, discussing common challenges and sharing best practices, you and your entity get the opportunity to learn innovative approaches and new methodologies, and a chance to build an international network of professionals. 

Taking part in meetings in European cities and regions, you encounter new cultures and see different ways of problem-solving. This may serve as additional motivation for your personnel. Partnerships do not consist only of formal cooperation; many project partners develop close ties with colleagues from across Europe, forming friendship and long-lasting bonds. 

Finally, working with European partners can potentially create new business opportunities and increasing your entity's visibility in the European Union’s internal market of 500 million persons.
 

Can my entity become a partner?

Can my entity receive project support?

Entities from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway cannot receive project grants directly. Grants are given to entities in one of the beneficiary countries, as project promoters. You can, however, become a donor project partner in a cooperation project where you are entitled to a part of the project budget to cover your costs. 

Who can become a donor project partner?

Generally, any public or private entity, commercial or non-commercial, as well as non-governmental organisations registered as legal entities in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway can become a project partner. Examples of relevant partners include national directorates, universities, municipalities, hospitals, theatre companies, non-governmental organisations and businesses.  Each project can have several partners involved. 

In programmes within “Education, Scholarships, Apprenticeships and Youth Entrepreneurship” and “Cultural Entrepreneurship, Cultural Heritage and Cultural Cooperation” persons who are legal residents in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway may be eligible project partners. This also applies to scholarship components under any programme.

Where can I find information about potential eligibility restrictions for partners?

Information on who are eligible project partners under a specific call can be found in the relevant call for proposals. Make sure you read the call for proposals carefully before investing time in the partnership, to make sure you are an eligible partner. The programme or fund operator will have to make the formal eligibility assessment upon receiving a project application, but they may be able to provide you with general guidance on your eligibility if you are in doubt.  

Do the same eligibility criteria apply in every country?

Eligibility criteria will differ from one programme or fund to another, so please read the call for proposals carefully. 

 

What does it take to be a project partner?

What does a project partnership entail?

Project partnerships come in many forms and will differ depending on a range of factors, from the size of the project to the sector you are cooperating in, whether you are building on existing cooperation with the project promoter or whether you have just met. In general, however, a project partnership entails active cooperation between you and the project promoter in the planning and implementation of your project. 
You will work together with the project promoter in developing a project idea, applying for project support, and if your project is selected, you will implement the project together. 
Some examples of your involvement include:

  • You may work in cooperation with the project promoter to develop a common product (a new technology, a strategy paper, a performance or a study);
  •  You may act as an advisor in your area of expertise;
  • You may exchange knowledge with professionals in your field;
  • You may provide training to share your knowledge, or take part in training to increase your knowledge;
  • You may facilitate meetings and visits;
  • You may cooperate on the organisation of workshops or conferences. 

It is important to keep in mind that your involvement as a project partner shall comply with the relevant rules on public procurement, as stated in Article 7.7.5 of the Regulation. 

What legal requirements do we agree to as partners?

It is the project promoter who bears the legal responsibility for initiating, preparing and implementing the project.

As project partner, you are expected to provide input in the planning of the project and to be actively involved in its implementation. The legal requirements you agree to, will be described in a partnership agreement, which you can read more about here.

What are the resource requirements expected of me as a partner?

This will depend on the nature of your involvement and the project itself. It is, however, recommended that you set aside time for the following:

  • Planning your involvement;
  • Necessary travel and accommodation;

  • Participation in cooperation meetings;
  • Fulfilling your administrative and financial requirements (such as reporting to the project promoter);
  • The actual performance of the tasks and activities agreed with the project promoter; and 
  • Information and communication requirements. 

Some projects will be less resource demanding and you may not need to include all of the above. 
In certain projects, the project partner may also provide co-financing in the project. 

How can my entity become a partner?

How do we become a donor project partner?

If you want to become a project partner, it may be useful to consider the following:

  • Do any of the EEA and Norway Grants programme areas match with your interests and expertise?
  • Is there a particular country you would like to engage in cooperation with?

As a project partner, you will enter into a partnership with a project promoter in one of the beneficiary countries. Together with the project promoter you will develop a joint project application that the project promoter will submit under a specific call for proposals. These calls for proposals are organised by programme or fund operators in the beneficiary countries. You can find updated information on calls here, and on the programme or fund operator websites.  

If you want to know more about becoming a project partner, it is recommended that you contact one of the donor programme partners operating in your field of interest. If you are working in the field of civil society, get in touch with the donor contact points for the Active Citizens Funds. They will be able to provide more detailed guidance and let you know whether there is an information event coming up that might be relevant for you.

When should we start preparing?

Establishing contact at an early stage will allow you more time to get to know each other and to discuss project ideas. 

Who can help us find project promoters to collaborate with?

The donor programme partners or in the case of the Active Citizens Funds, the donor contact points may be able to advise you in your search for a partner. They will often have an overview of upcoming information meetings, partnership events, seed or travel funds and calls for proposals coming up in their field. In cooperation with the programme or fund operators, the donor programme partners and the donor contact points sometimes arrange matchmaking events which may be of interest to your entity. 

Some of the donor programme partners and the donor contact points have also established databases in which you can enter your information and express your interest in cooperation:

The embassies of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are also engaged in the EEA and Norway Grants and may be able to assist you in finding the right partner. 

Keep an eye out for relevant information on eeagrants.org. Here you will find updated contact details for programme and fund operators, as well as information on relevant calls for proposals

How do we find and contact potential project promoters?

You may have done your own research and found an entity you would like to collaborate with. Perhaps you are already active in an international or European network where you come across relevant entities you would like to cooperate with? Once you have their contact details, it is recommended that you contact them by email and explain to them:

  • Who you are;
  • Why you are contacting them (to explore partnership opportunities, if relevant you can refer to the specific programme or fund you would like to partner up under);
  • What your entity can offer in the partnership; and
  • Whether the entity is interested in discussing possibilities for a project partnership.

We have an already established cooperation with entities in the beneficiary countries. Can we still apply for funding through the EEA and Norway Grants?

An already established cooperation is a great starting point. Do note that each programme or fund launching a call for proposals will have specific eligibility criteria for project promoters and project partners, and this will determine whether you can apply for funds under a given call. Most calls are, however, open to both new and well-established partnerships. 

We have been contacted regarding a potential project partnership, but we do not know the entity in the beneficiary country. What should we do?

As a first step you should ask for additional information to give you a better picture of the entity. You may also want to do some research online to find out more about the potential project promoter. If you are not able to find sufficient information and you have doubts about the entity, you should contact the programme or fund operator for advice, or alternatively your embassy in the country in question.

You need to establish as early as possible whether the entity is contacting you regarding a specific call for proposals. If so, the project promoter should refer you to the relevant programme or fund website so that you can read up on the call for proposals (always available in English) to determine whether the proposal is of interest and relevance to you. If the entity already has a clear project idea in mind, it is also recommended that you look closely at the call for proposals to ensure that the project will be eligible before you start investing time in the partnership.

We have received a partnership request with a very short deadline. Should we accept?

Some programmes/funds will award extra points to donor partnership projects in the selection process, or even have a compulsory partnership component, which might trigger partnership requests simply to receive the additional points, or to be eligible to apply. A real partnership will entail your involvement in the planning and execution of the project. 

Keep in mind that each call for proposals is launched with a deadline, and you need to ensure that you have enough time to prepare your input to the project. A project application in a partnership project should be drafted and developed together. Sufficient time should therefore be allowed for both project partners to meaningfully engage and come to an understanding. 

However, if you are confident that you will be able to provide meaningful input to the project on short notice you may still want to accept the request. It is recommended that you take the time to discuss roles and responsibilities as well as the financial aspects of your contribution. A letter of intent might be required as part of the project application, but detailed information on your role and responsibilities will only be included in the partnership agreement which does not have to be signed at the time of submitting the project application. Normally, the total amount of the project budget is not changed after the project is accepted, so it is important that the total budget you propose for your project is in line with the needs and expectations of both you and your project partner(s). 

Is it possible to have more than one donor project partner per project?

Yes, normally it is possible to have more than one project partner per project. Any limitations in this respect shall be clearly stated in the relevant call for proposals. A project may in addition include one or more partners in the beneficiary country. 

Where do I find an overview of who to contact?

Visit eeagrants.org for an overview of the various entities engaged in the EEA and Norway Grants, including the donor programme partners

 

How do we establish cooperation?

How do we build trust with a potential partner in an early phase?

Close and frequent communication is key to establishing a partnership built on trust and mutual understanding. If feasible, it is recommended that you and the project promoter organise a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible to begin the dialogue on the project application and your planned contribution. In addition to professional meetings, consider meeting in a more informal setting to get to know each other better. Many programmes/funds will have funding available for project planning meetings. 

We need to get to know the project promoter better before we decide on becoming a partner. What should we do?

In many cases, funds are made available to facilitate partnerships, including travel support. Have a look at the programme or fund operator’s web page or contact them directly to find out more. You can find more information on eligibility and the application process on the relevant programme website. In general, it is recommended that project partners invest enough time together in developing their project before submitting their application. 

How do we clarify expectations to the cooperation?

It is important to be clear on your expectations and limitations as a project partner at an early stage of cooperation. Use the first meetings and/or emails to establish what you both seek to achieve from the cooperation to avoid misunderstandings further down the line. 

Language barriers is making communication challenging. Can we have translation costs covered?

During the planning of the project, you and the project promoter may be able to apply for funds to cover costs associated with the preparation of the application. Any expenditure directly contributing to strengthening bilateral relations should be eligible, including translation costs. Translation costs during the project implementation should be included in the project budget.

How do we develop a partnership project?

How do we get started with developing a partnership project? And when?

Once you have established contact with a project promoter, the next step will be to agree on a project concept and to develop a project application together. 

All project applications will need to be submitted under a specific call for proposals. The calls are open for at least two months. 

Keep in mind that all supported projects need to contribute to achieving a set of clearly defined results, which will be described in the call for proposals. To see if your project idea may be funded you need to check the relevant call text:

  • Is the thematic focus of the call relevant for your desired area of cooperation?
  • Will you have enough time to prepare a project together with the main applicant?

What do we need to keep in mind when we plan the project?

Most importantly, agree on your roles in the proposed project, the contribution to the project (deliverables) and the division of the budget between you and the project promoter. 

Think carefully about your expected costs and use of time in the project. The project budget should cover the hours you intend to spend on working on the project as well as any costs you have directly related to your involvement in the project, such as travel, accommodation, translation costs, audits etc. 

Keep in mind that there are substantial differences in cost levels in the donor and beneficiary countries. It might be necessary to alert the project promoter to this when you are drawing up the project budget. 

Set aside sufficient budget for administration and reporting, as this will form part of your involvement in the project.

These elements are then to be drawn up in a partnership agreement which in legal terms regulates the future cooperation between the partners. 

Can we receive financial support for developing the project application?

Yes, you can. Most programmes and funds make available funds for developing the project application with the project promoter. Have a look at the programme or fund operator’s webpage or contact them directly to find out more, as funding opportunities may vary between programmes, and in some cases only travel support is provided. You can find more information on eligibility and the application process on the relevant programme website. . 

Who is responsible for drafting the project application?

It is the project promoter who has the responsibility for preparing the project. However, as project partner you are encouraged to take on an active role in the preparation of the application.

To what extent can we influence the development of the project?

As a project partner, you are expected to contribute to the project development. You should be free to discuss your ideas with the project promoter and to influence the direction of the project. The extent to which your ideas and suggestions are integrated in the final project application may differ from project to project. However, you are encouraged to actively contribute in the development to ensure that the project is as relevant as possible for your organisation.

Should the application be drafted in English or the national language?

In calls for proposals dedicated exclusively to donor partnership projects, the project applications and other relevant documents will be submitted in English. In most calls the project application will need to be submitted in the national language. In such cases, the partnership agreement will be your main reference document, and should include a description of your roles and responsibilities in English. 

 

How do we apply for project funding?

How do we get funding for our project?

Funding for projects is made available through calls for proposals. The programme and fund operators are responsible for announcing the calls, and they will always be available in English. The calls will be announced on eeagrants.org, as well as on the individual programme or fund webpage. Remember that only entities from the beneficary country can apply for funding, entities from the donor countries can be partners.

The text of the call sets out the available budget, the scale of the projects, eligible applicants, required co-financing, the objective the project should contribute to and criteria that will be used to select projects. The project application needs to be designed in accordance with the criteria described in the call for proposal. The programme or fund operator will in many cases provide training and guidance through additional guidelines or outreach seminars to assist with the project application process. 

From the announcement of the call, you will have at least two months to submit your application. Make sure you and the project promoter are aware of the deadline.

The call will provide a clear reference or a link to the application form and user guide. In calls for proposals dedicated exclusively to donor partnership projects, the project applications and other relevant documents will be submitted in English. In most calls however, the application will need to be submitted in the national language. You may ask for a translation of the project application. 

Where can I find an overview of calls for proposals?

Information about available calls can be found on the relevant programme or fund websites and in the call overview on www.eeagrants.org. All calls will be made available in both national languages and English. 

Who submits the application?

It is the project promoter who is the owner of the project and therefore also the one who will be responsible for submitting the application. The project promoter will in most cases be your partner in the beneficiary country. 

What kind of documentation will we as partner be required to provide in the project application?

There are no general documentation requirements for project partners in the project application. However, the call for proposals might specify documentation requirements. Examples include documentation of the project partner’s legal status or a letter of intent between the partners.

We missed the application deadline. What can we do?

The deadlines for applications are final and to ensure a fair and transparent process, late applications will not be accepted. All hope is not lost, however, as many programmes/funds will organise more than one call. Contact the programme or fund operator to find out more. 

What happens after we have submitted the application?

Once your application has been submitted, the application will be assessed in line with the selection process described in the call for proposals. These processes will vary between the programmes/funds. A typical assessment will start by checking the formal requirements (compliance with eligibility criteria) first. The contents of the project proposals are then assessed by external experts. Based on these assessments, a selection committee will put together a ranking of projects that they recommend for selection. Donor programme partners often participate in selection committees as observers or voting members. The final decision will be made by the programme or fund operator, and the applicants (project promoters) will be informed of the outcome of the application process. 

Our application was rejected. Is all hope lost?

The call for proposals should describe the appeal process in case you think the application was rejected by error or unfairly rejected. Moreover, many programmes/funds will launch more than one call. The donor programme partner in your field may be able to provide you with general advice on how to improve your application. 

 

How do we draft a partnership agreement?

What is a partnership agreement?

The partnership agreement regulates the cooperation between the project promoter and the donor project partners. In all projects implemented in partnership, the project promoter will need to sign a partnership agreement with the project partner. You can read more about the content of the partnership agreement in the Regulations (Art 7.7) and in section 5.3 of the Bilateral Guideline.

What do we need to be aware of in the drafting of the agreement?

It is very important that you and the project promoter take the time to draft an agreement you are both comfortable with. A good partnership agreement will describe in concrete terms your expected contribution to the project and provide a detailed budget which will ensure you get your costs covered.  The partnership agreement will form a solid foundation for your cooperation and help you avoid potential obstacles further down the road.

 

Responsibilities should be described in as much detail as possible and could include e.g. number of hours to be used on the cooperation and any agreed deliverables (trainings held, meetings organised, etc). If it is possible to include a detailed work plan in the partnership agreement with activities, timing and associated budget, this is recommended. Alternatively, a list of activities could be included.

The partnership agreement should include the following information (non-exhaustive list):

Main activities to be carried out, including any agreed deliverables;

  • Indicative timings;

  • Obligations of the parties;

  • Detailed budget;

  • Financial arrangements between the parties, including which expenditure the project partners can get reimbursed from the project budget, and how this can be reimbursed;

  • Method for calculating indirect costs and their maximum amount;

  •  Currency exchange rules;

  • Reporting requirements;

  •  Provisions on audits on the project partners;

  • Provisions on dispute resolution; and

  • Arrangements and information on co-financing.

It is recommended that you pay particular attention to financial arrangements and reimbursement, as well as any issues related to public procurement. Do you agree to what the project promoter is proposing? As an example, due to strict interpretation of procurement regulations, some partnership agreements may require you to carry out a tender process or collect offers for smaller costs including meals and local travel. Keep in mind that compliance with the relevant donor country procurement legislation should apply for activities carried out in a donor country by a donor country entity (Bilateral Guideline section 6.7).

You can read more about requirements for the partnership agreement in the Regulations (Art 7.7).

Where can I find a partnership agreement template?

You can find a template for the partnership agreement here. The donor programme partners and the donor contact points may also have examples of previously used partnership agreements which may serve as a source of inspiration. 

How do we calculate the cost of our contribution in the project?

As project partner, your costs should be covered if they are necessary for the project, proportionate and reasonable. In most projects, this will include:

  • Costs of staff/personnel assigned to the project, comprised of actual salaries plus social security charges and other statutory costs. Remember to include costs of staff related to administrative work.
  • Travel and subsistence allowances for staff taking part in the project.
  • Cost of equipment and consumables required for your participation in the project.
  • Other costs arising from the partnership, e.g. translation costs and audit costs. 

Generally, it is important that you are realistic about the costs and that you calculate costs based on approximate prices. Salaries and other costs are far higher in the donor countries compared with the beneficiary countries. 

Make sure you check the budget carefully to ensure you have set aside sufficient funds to cover your contribution and the costs you expect to incur. 

The description of costs to be covered in this section is limited for simplicity and you may consult the Financial Guidance or the Regulations to read more about what are considered eligible expenditures for the project partners.

What about overhead costs?

Overhead costs, referred to in Article 8.5 of the Regulations as “Indirect costs”, are costs that cannot be identified as being directly attributed to your contribution to the project. These could be e.g. part of the ongoing expenses of operating your entities. Examples include rent and insurance costs for office spaces, heating and lighting expenses. When calculating your overheads, it is important that these are proportionate and that they represent a reasonable share of your overall overhead costs.

There are five alternative methods available for calculating your overhead costs, and you need to agree with the project promoter, and specify in the partnership agreement, which method you will apply in your cost calculation. Here we briefly outline those most relevant for you:

(a) actual indirect costs – this is an alternative for project promoters and project partners that have an analytical accounting system that identifies their indirect costs;

(b) a flat rate of up to 25% of total direct eligible costs, subject to calculation in line with the Article 8.5.2 of the Regulations;

(c) a flat rate of up to 15% of direct eligible staff costs;

(d) a flat rate applied to direct eligible costs based on existing methods and corresponding rates applicable in European Union policies for similar types of project and partnerships;

Note that alternative (d) would only apply in case your organisation is already involved in similar types of projects under EU funds or similar. As an example, if your organisation has been involved in a Horizon 2020 project on circular economy where the project promoter is a public entity, the same method and corresponding flat rate may be applied in a similar project set-up on circular economy under the EEA and Norway Grants.

You can read in more detail about indirect costs in projects (overheads) in the the Regulations (Art. 8.5) and in the Financial Guidance (2). 

Under the Active Citizens Funds, only alternative c), a flat rate of up to 15% of direct eligible staff costs, can be used. In projects under the Research programmes, indirect costs are determined by using a flat rate of 25% of total direct eligible costs. Please note that if the project grant takes the form of standard scales of unit costs, indirect costs shall not be applied. For details, please see the Research Guideline Article 10.8.

(2) If you are engaging in a project under the Active Citizens' Funds the applicable rules are described in the relevant Programme Implementation Agreement

How much of the project budget should be allocated to us as partners? What is reasonable?

  • There are no set rules when it comes to the division of the project budget between the parties.
  • It is up to you and the project promoter to agree on a reasonable and proportional split. 
  • Keep in mind that it is the project promoter who is responsible for the initiation, preparation and implementation of the project, and that you as project partner shall be actively involved in, and effectively contribute to, the implementation of the project. 
  • The amount allocated to you as partner should cover the costs you incur in the cooperation.

Do we need to provide co-financing in the project?

The grant rates and the co-financing requirements for projects will be described in the call for proposals, and differs between programmes/funds, type of entities involved, and more. Project partners from Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein are not required to provide co-financing. However,  you may agree with the project promoter to take on some of the cost of the co-financing. In such cases, it is important that this is described in the partnership agreement. 

The project promoter thinks our costs are too high. What do we do?

Wages and cost levels are generally higher in the donor countries. It is therefore recommended that you inform the project promoter of this as early as possible to avoid unrealistic expectations. You may wish to refer to national wage statistics (for example Statistics Norway, Statistics Iceland, or Liechtenstein in Figures). If the costs you have suggested are reasonable and proportionate to the project outputs planned, but the project promoter still finds them too high, it is recommended that you refer to the donor programme partner in your sector for advice. For the Active Citizens Funds donor contact points may be able to advise you on this issue.

Who can we contact for help with the partnership agreement?

The donor programme partner in your sector may be able to advise you. For the Active Citizens Funds donor contact points may be able to advise you on this issue as well. For programmes with no donor programme partner please contact the programme or fund operator.

Who do we send the partnership agreement to, and when?

  • The partnership agreement is submitted to the programme or fund operator for the programme or fund you are applying under. 
  • A draft partnership agreement or letter of intent shall be submitted to the programme or fund operator before the signing of the project contract (the contract between the project promoter and the programme or fund operator). 
  • It is advisable that the signed agreement is submitted as soon as possible after your project has been selected for support. 
  • Read the call for proposals carefully in case there are specific elements that need to be included in the partnership agreement in the call you are applying under. 

What laws do we need to comply with?

Any activities undertaken must comply with the national laws that apply in the country where the activities are taking place. 

Moreover, all activities under the EEA and Norway Grants need to be carried out in line with the Regulations on the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2014-2021, or in the case of the Active Citizens Funds and other programmes managed by the Financial Mechanism Office, the relevant Programme Implementation Agreement. 

Article 1.5.2 of the Regulations addresses the relationship between national legislation and the Regulations on the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms: ‘the Beneficiary State shall ensure that any additional provisions applicable to the implementation of the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2014-2021 are kept to a minimum. The legal framework referred to in paragraph 1 takes precedence over any such provisions.’ 

Thus, the EEA and Norway Grants shall be implemented in accordance with the Regulations. Please note, however, that the Regulations do not cover all aspects of implementation, and for some areas, e.g. public procurement, there is a requirement that this complies with the applicable national and EU law (see Article 8.15 of the Regulations). Based on Article 1.5.2 of the Regulations and the references made to applicable national and EU law made throughout the Regulations, the intention is that the Regulations and national law complement each other with regards to the implementation of the EEA and Norway Grants
 

How do we implement the project?

The project application was approved. What happens now?

Once the project has been approved, the programme or fund operator will enter into a project contract with the project promoter. The project contract sets out the terms and conditions of the grant assistance as well as the roles and responsibilities of the parties. The project contract is usually written in the beneficiary country language. To ensure you have a full overview of what has been agreed in the contract, you can propose that translation services, including translation of the project contract is included in the project budget. It is a requirement according to the Regulation that the project contract includes provisions that ensure that project partners are informed sufficiently in advance of modifications to the project that affect them.

The project contract will include information on the “first and final dates of eligibility” of the project, which is the period in which you may incur costs as the project partner. Usually the first day of eligibility will be the date when the programme or fund operator decides to award the project grant.

It can be a good idea to have a “kick-off meeting” with the project promoter once the project application is approved, either in person or through video/phone conference. You can use this meeting to discuss any questions you have and to agree on the next steps and potentially agree on a time plan for the period ahead. 

Is it too late to make changes to the project once it has been approved?

In general, making changes to a project once it has been accepted is a complex matter. The present section will only discuss how to make changes to a project contract. First and foremost, changes to the project will need to be discussed and agreed between you and the project promoter.

When it comes to changes to the project contract between the project promoter and the programme or fund operator, any changes need to comply with the rules on modifications of the project, as described in the project contract. Once the change has been agreed between the project promoter and the programme or fund operator, the project contract should be amended accordingly.

The partnership agreement does not need to be signed at the time of project approval. It should, however, be signed as soon as possible after the approval of the project. Once the partnership agreement is signed, the agreement can still be changed if the parties agree. Such changes should be made in writing and the updated partnership agreement shared with the programme or fund operator.

It is worth noting that changes can be made to the partnership agreement without changing the project contract if the change is still in compliance with the project contract. This is true the other way around as well.

Article 20 of the partnership agreement template covers amendments to the partnership agreement.

What challenges can arise in the partnership?

Some of the challenges that may arise in the partnership include:

  • Delays. Processes such as the approval of the project and the processing of payment claims may take longer than expected.  
  • Coming from different backgrounds, you and the project promoter may have different approaches and ideas on how to implement the project. 
  • Documentation requirements may be heavier than what you are used to.
  • Communication issues may arise due to language barriers.
  • Different understandings of terms and conditions. 
  • The project promoter may not include the partner sufficiently in the project preparation.

Many of the challenges that arise in project partnerships can be avoided through taking the time to draft and agree on a detailed partnership agreement. It is a good idea to discuss potential challenges with the project promoter at an early stage and look at how this can be addressed already in the partnership agreement. 

Please see here for who to contact in case you need support. 

We do not agree with the project promoter on how to implement the project. What do we do?

The implementation of the project should be carried out in line with the project contract and the partnership agreement. If this is not the case, as a first step you should raise your concerns with the project promoter and seek to come to an agreement with the project promoter. Is it possible to reach a compromise you are both satisfied with? If it is not, the programme or fund operator may be able to provide guidance on how the project should be implemented, based on the project contract.  

There may however be situations in which you cannot come to an agreement, and it is a requirement that the partnership agreement includes provisions on dispute resolution. Article 23 of the partnership agreement template includes a placeholder where you and the project promoter can agree on an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, such as the referral of the dispute to an arbitral tribunal or to the mediation of an impartial third party. One such party could be the programme or fund operator. 

Keep in mind that the costs related to disputes are not eligible under the project and need to be covered by you and the project promoter individually.

The project is not being implemented in line with principles of good governance and ethical standards. What do we do?

Projects under the EEA and Norway Grants shall be based on the common values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. They shall follow the principles of good governance; they shall be participatory and inclusive, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient. There shall be zero-tolerance towards corruption. If you suspect misuse of funds, please report this immediately. 

If you have doubts about the way in which the project promoter is implementing the project, we recommend that you begin with a dialogue with the project promoter on the issues you are concerned about. If the issue is not resolved, the donor programme partner in your country and sector may be able to advise you on how to proceed. For the Active Citizens Funds donor contact points may be able to advise you on this issue. For programmes with no donor programme partner from your country please contact the programme or fund operator. 

Since the project was approved, we have not heard from the project promoter. We are not able to get hold of them. What do we do?

Please contact the relevant programme or fund operator to alert them to the fact you are not able to get hold of the project promoter. If they are not able to help, get in touch with the donor programme partner in your programme who might be able to raise this through their own communication channels. 

How can we contribute to making the project more sustainable?

You can agree with the project promoter to include a sustainability plan as one of the project deliverables, in which you can, for example, address how the project aligns with national, regional or local strategies, action plans or objectives, how the project can create and develop lasting partnerships, and how the cooperation can continue beyond the project period by accessing other types of funding. 

How can we make sure the cooperation with the project promoter lasts beyond the completion of the project?

Discuss it with the project promoter. Some partners decide to sign a letter of intent at the end of the cooperation to signal a wish to continue the cooperation. Stay in touch, discuss new project opportunities and possibilities for future funding if that is of interest.  

Who can we contact in Iceland, Norway, or Liechtenstein if challenges arise in the implementation of our project?

The first point of contact is the donor programme partner in your sector.(3) The donor programme partner may be able to take this forward with the relevant programme operator. If the programme does not have a donor programme partner, or the donor programme partner is not able to assist, please contact the programme operator directly. For the Active Citizens Funds donor contact points may be able to advise you on this issue. 

(3) In the case of Liechtenstein, the EEA Grants Coordinator for the area of Culture, Arno Oehri, can be contacted for issues regarding culture projects.

Can we withdraw from the project during implementation?

The partnership agreement is a binding contract. However, there may be reasons you need to withdraw during implementation. It is recommended that you agree on issues related to termination, including the consequences of termination, in the partnership agreement.

Article 18 of the partnership agreement template covers termination. 

Can the project promoter cancel the project without consulting us?

The project contract between the programme or fund operator shall include provisions that ensure that project partners are informed sufficiently in advance of modifications to the project that affect them. In general, it is expected that the project promoter consults you before cancelling the project. 

How do we get our expenses covered?

Who will cover our expenses?

In most projects, the project promoter will receive the total project grant from the programme or fund operator. It is the project promoter who is responsible for making the relevant payments to the project partner, in line with the arrangements set out in the partnership agreement.

Do we have to cover our expenses upfront, or can we receive pre-financing?

This is one of the issues you need to discuss with the project promoter and settle in the partnership agreement. Under Article 7 of the partnership agreement template you can specify whether or to what extent payments will be made as advance payments or whether the promoter will reimburse your costs. 

How do we proceed to get our project expenses refunded?

The partnership agreement will specify when and in what format you will need to submit your claims for reimbursements. In some partnerships, the project promoter will have templates for you to fill in. You can find detailed guidance on how to specify this in the partnership agreement template, article 8 – Proof of expenditure. 

In partnerships in which a significant amount will be allocated to the project partner, it is recommended to use an audit report or a report by a competent public officer  as proof of expenditure (relevant for project partners from the public sector). Such an officer could be e.g. a financial controller with financial control capacity over your entity and who has not been involved in the project or any related financial reporting. What is considered a “significant amount” depends on the cost of getting an audit report or a report by a competent public officer.(4) If the cost of producing the report exceeds the administrative costs of producing supporting documents as proof of expenditure, it is not advisable to use a report. Remember that the costs of an audit report can be included in the project budget.

In the case of partnerships that do not involve significant expenditures on the project partner’s side, it is possible (and may be simpler) to provide supporting documents as proof (e.g. receipted invoices, payroll extracts, etc). When this option is chosen, it is important to specify in advance whether these must be translated into the project promoter’s national language.

You can also agree to use accounting documents that can show what costs you have incurred. Such accounting documents would be e.g.  an excerpt of your bookkeeping relevant to the project work. For those who have separate project accounting modules in their accounting system, you can simply send the project accounting for the relevant period. According to some project partners, this method is considered less labour intensive. 
A combination of the above is also a possibility. It is recommended that you are as specific as possible when describing this in the partnership agreement. 

For more detailed information, please see the Regulations (Art. 8.12) or the Financial Guidance

(4) For a definition of a “competent public officer”, please see the Regulations Art 8.12 (4). 

What accounting and reporting requirements are we obliged to follow? Do our own national regulations apply?

Accounting needs to follow the relevant law and national accounting practices for the country in which the activity is taking place. For example, a Norwegian entity with offices in Norway follows the Norwegian accounting practices. When receiving funds from a project promoter in one of the beneficiary countries, however, you may also be asked to provide proof of expenditure in line with the beneficiary country accounting rules.

When it comes to reporting requirements, you need to discuss this with the project promoter as requirements may differ between programmes. You can specify reporting obligations and refer to any templates you may be using for reporting, in the partnership agreement template Article 9 – Progress and financial reports.

If you are already cooperating with support from other funding sources, e.g. EU funding, do keep in mind that an EEA and Norway Grants project will need to be applied for and reported on separately. No costs for the same activity shall be funded twice. 

Are there templates and regulations we can access that apply to all beneficiary countries?

General rules on eligibility of expenditure under the Grants can be found in the  Regulations, specifically Chapter 8. However, the different beneficiary countries may have additional requirements that go beyond what is described in the Regulations. The partnership agreement should be used to specify such requirements and refer to templates if that is relevant.  Section 6.6.1 of the Bilateral Guideline and Art. 8 of the partnership agreement template provide further guidance. Note that in projects under the Active Citizens Fund, the Regulations do not apply and the rules are laid down in the programme implementation agreement and in the relevant chapter in the ACF manual (please refer to list of guidance documents at the end of this guide).

The project promoter is requiring us to document our costs in a manner which is not consistent with our national regulations. What do we do? 

Make sure you read the partnership agreement closely before signing to ensure you are not signing up for documentation requirements you are not comfortable with. In some beneficiary countries, printouts from personal bank accounts or payslips are commonly accepted forms of documentation. It is recommended that you in the partnership agreement go into detail on how costs shall be documented. If you find issues around this arising during your project, the donor programme partner in your country and sector or the donor contact points under the Active Citizens Funds may be able to advice you on how to proceed. 

Are we required to conduct an independent audit of the project?

The project partner is normally not responsible for conducting any audits of the project. The responsibility for audits lies with the Audit Authority in the beneficiary country. In the Active Citizens Funds, the responsibility for audits lie with an external financial and compliance audit commissioned by the fund operator. Any specific obligation for the project partner should be stated in the partnership agreement.

When it comes to getting your expenses refunded, however, you may agree with the project promoter to use an audit report to prove your expenses. For more information, please see the section above on how to get your project expenses refunded. 

Who can assist us if the project promoter is not reimbursing our expenses?

As a first step, contact the project promoter to ask why your expenses are not reimbursed. Double check if you have respected deadlines for financial reporting and carried out the agreed tasks in line with the partnership agreement. If so, please contact the programme or fund operator. If the issue still is not resolved, please contact FMO for advise.

We suspect that the project promoter is not using the project grant in line with the application. What do we do?

If you have doubts about the way in which the project promoter is implementing the project, we recommend that you begin with a dialogue with the project promoter on the issues you are concerned about. If the issue is not resolved, the donor programme partner from your country  and in your sector or the donor contact point from your country may be able to advise you on how to proceed. For programmes with no relevant donor programme partner please contact the programme or fund operator. 

Complaints and alerts on suspected irregularities should be reported immediately. You can find information on where to report mismanagement of funds here. We encourage whistleblowing, including anonymous complaints if you suspect that something is wrong, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you are unsure of whether to submit a complaint, please contact the programme or fund operator. 

Can we be held financially accountable for the project promoter’s misuse of funds? 

You should normally not be held financially accountable for the project promoter’s misuse of funds. However, if an irregularity is detected in the project promoter’s use of funds, a decision to suspend payments to the project may be made. This may affect cash flows within the project and consequently the project promoter’s ability to refund your costs. In more serious cases of irregularity (e.g. fraud), a decision could be taken to cancel the entire contribution to the project, in which case all partners could be affected. As mentioned, should you suspect any misuse of funds please be in touch as soon as possible with the aim of clarifying the situation and finding a remedy. 

The project was cancelled during implementation. How do we get our outstanding expenses reimbursed?

It is recommended that you discuss issues related to termination of the project with the project promoter. You can find guidance on how to specify this in the partnership agreement template, article 18 – Termination.

Chapter 12: Information and communication requirements

What information and communication requirements do we need to fulfil?

All donor country entities participating under the EEA and Norway Grants are required to provide information on their involvement and the outcome of their project to the general public in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway and to relevant stakeholders. Information about the project should be presented on the website of your entity.
In practical terms, this implies:

  • Providing information about the project you are taking part in on your entity’s web page or social media platforms, including information about the project promoter, and that the project is supported by the EEA and Norway Grants;
  • Communicating the results achieved in the project, e.g. presenting the project and results at relevant events nationally and internationally, informing relevant stakeholders, as well as relevant local, regional or national media; and
  • Using the official EEA and Norway Grants logo in all written/digital communication about the project, and any relevant social media platforms.

All information and communication material related to the EEA and Norway Grants must be in line with the Communication and Design Manual. In this manual you will find many useful tips and guidance on how to communicate, as well as detailed requirements and guidelines on the use of the logos, etc.  
 

Glossary

What is the Active Citizens Fund?

The Active Citizens Fund provides earmarked support to civil society organisations in each of the beneficiary countries. The fund seek to develop the long-term sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector, with the aim of strengthening its role in promoting democratic participation, active citizenship and human rights. The fund is operated by fund operators in the beneficiary countries. You can read more about the Active Citizens Fund here

What is a beneficiary country?

The 15 countries that receive funding from the EEA and Norway Grants are sometimes referred to as the ‘beneficiary countries’. The countries are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

What is a call for proposals?

A call for proposals refers to a selection process launched by the programme or fund operator with a view to select projects on a competitive basis. All calls for proposals are widely publicised and open for at least two months and will be published on eeagrants.org and on the individual programme webpages, as well as on the donor programme partners’ and donor contact points’ websites. You can read more about calls for proposals in the Regulations (Art. 7.3). 

What is a donor contact point?

The donor contact points keep civil society in the donor countries informed about the Active Citizens Funds. They also serve as a point of contact for donor country entities interested in participating as project partners. In Norway, the donor contact point is the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, while in Iceland it is the Icelandic Human Rights Centre who fulfils this role.

What is a donor programme partner?

The donor programme partners are strategic partners to the programme operators in the development and implementation of EEA and Norway Grants supported programmes. The donor programme partners are public bodies from the donor countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) with national mandates in their respective fields. 

The donor programme partners represent a wide range of sectors and play an important role in facilitating project partnerships, e.g. by providing support and guidance for potential and actual partners. You can find an overview of all donor programme partners here. In Liechtenstein, Mr Arno Oehri is acting as the dedicated contact point in the Ministry of Culture of Liechtenstein for entities in Liechtenstein interested in partnerships under the culture programmes. Mr Oehri can be contacted at Arnooehri@eeagrants.li.

What is a donor project partner?

A project partner is a legal person actively involved in, and effectively contributing to, the implementation of a project, and whose primary location (managerial and administrative centre) is Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway. Both public and private entities, commercial and non-commercial, as well as non-governmental organisations, can participate as project partners in a project. Persons who are legal residents of Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway may also participate as project partners in some cases. See the Regulations Art. 1.6 and 7.2, as well as the Bilateral Guideline section 5.1 for more details.

What is a donor country?

The EEA and Norway Grants are financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, countries that in this context are sometimes referred to as the ‘donor countries’. 

What is the Financial Mechanism Office?

The Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) is the Brussels- based secretariat for the Grants. The FMO is affiliated with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and reports to the Foreign Ministries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The FMO also serves as a contact point for the beneficiary countries. As of 30 June 2018, the FMO has 61 fixed-term staff positions, encompassing 18 different nationalities.

What is a fund operator?

In some programmes and funds, the Financial Mechanism Office is entrusted with the role of programme operator. In these cases, the implementation of the programme or fund is normally performed by a fund operator. 

What is a national focal point?

Each beneficiary country has a national focal point, responsible overall for achieving the objectives of the Grants, as well as overall management and control of their programmes. The national focal points are located within relevant ministries, or public agencies that also have responsibility for managing EU funds. You can find information about all national focal points here

What is a partnership agreement?

In each partnership project, the project promoter and the project partner must enter into a partnership agreement, in line with the requirements set out in Art. 7.7 of the Regulations. The partnership agreement forms the legal basis for the project cooperation and contains provisions on the roles and responsibilities of the parties, financial provisions, and more. You can find a template for the partnership agreement here. You can read more about the partnership agreement in the Bilateral Guideline section 5.3. However, such an agreement does not yet need to be in place when you are applying for project support. 

What is a programme?

Most of the EEA and Norway Grants funding is channelled through programmes in the beneficiary countries. The programmes are implemented by a programme or fund operator, often in cooperation with a donor programme partner. Each programme covers one or several thematic areas and makes available funding to projects though calls for proposals. 

What is a programme operator?

The programme operator has the responsibility for implementing a programme. The programme operator is responsible for awarding funding to projects according to agreed criteria, monitoring project implementation and achieving results. Programme operators often work in close cooperation with a donor programme partner.  

What is a project contract?

A project contract is an agreement between the programme or fund operator and the project promoter, regulating the implementation of a given project. 

What is a project promoter?

A project promoter is a natural or legal person having the responsibility for initiating, preparing and implementing a project.

Legal framework and guidance documents

It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the legal framework governing the Grants as well as other documents providing additional guidance concerning the implementation of projects. The legal framework is set in Article 1. 5 of the Regulations and consists of the following documents: 

Agreements on the EEA and Norway Grants

Memoranda of understanding with beneficiary countries

Regulations with Annexes

Any guidelines adopted by the donor countries

Programme Agreements 

For a full overview of the documents, please visit our website. A non-exhaustive list of the legally binding guidelines is reproduced below for ease of reference.

Bilateral Guideline

The objective of the Bilateral Guideline is to provide relevant stakeholders with an overview and clarification of requirements concerning the strengthening of bilateral relations, and to provide guidance and suggestions for how to best implement these requirements in practice.

Results Guideline

The primary objective of this Guideline is to ensure that the relevant stakeholders are provided with the detailed rules and obligations to complement the Regulations, and to assist them with recommendations in designing, implementing and reporting on programmes.

Guideline for Research Programmes

This guideline applies to the implementation of programmes falling under the Programme Area 2 “Research” and contains rules specific to the implementation of Research programmes and consequently expands and further specifies certain provisions of the Regulation. Furthermore, provisions of this guideline may, by way of specific provisions contained in the Programme Agreement, be applied to other Programmes.

Guideline for Educational Programmes

This Guideline applies to the implementation of programmes falling under the Programme Area 3 “Education, Scholarships, Apprenticeships and Youth Entrepreneurship” and contains rules specific to the implementation of Educational programmes and consequently expands and further specifies certain provisions of the Regulation. Furthermore, provisions of this Guideline may, by way of specific provisions contained in the programme agreement, be applied to other programmes.

Legal framework for the Active Citizens Fund

Please note that for programmes implemented under the Active Citizens Fund established under Programme Area 15 “Civil Society”, the Agreements on the EEA and Norway Grants as well as the MoUs are still part of the legal framework. However, the Regulations and guidelines do not apply but are replaced by the Manual for the Fund Operators of the Active Citizens Fund, including annexes. The purpose of the Manual is to clarify specific references in the Programme Implementation Agreement and provide further rules and guidance to the Fund Operators in the development and implementation of the Active Citizens Funds.

Other non-binding guidance documents: 

-    Financial Guidance

-    Best practice on project selection procedures – Guidance document
 

 

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