“We are pleased that the new agreement on EEA financial mechanisms can finally be signed. This is a substantial contribution to reducing social and economic disparities in Europe,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
Norway will now enter into a dialogue with all the beneficiary states regarding the areas to be covered in the respective countries. It is natural that the various countries have different profiles and priorities. After agreement has been reached with the individual beneficiary states on allocation of funds in the various priority sectors, the next phase will be the rollout of the programmes. Calls for proposals and programme plans are expected to be issued beginning in 2011.
“The new EEA financial mechanisms give us a historic opportunity to strengthen our cooperation with the newest EU member states. Many of these countries are struggling with high unemployment and a difficult economic situation. It is in Norway’s interests to promote economic and social development in these countries,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
Norway will provide nearly NOK 3 billion (EUR 347 million) per year to reduce social and economic disparities and promote cooperation in Europe in the period 2009–2014. The EEA Grants will be available to the 12 most recent EU members plus Portugal, Greece and Spain.
“The funding from Norway is targeted at areas where we can make a difference and that are in line with Norwegian and European interests,” said Mr Støre, and he encouraged Norwegian actors to become involved in projects with partners in beneficiary countries.
The funds are to be used to support projects in the fields of environmental protection and climate change, green industry innovation, health, research and scholarship, cultural heritage, decent work and civil society, and justice and home affairs. An important new element in the agreement is the focus on decent work and tripartite dialogue.
Agreement has also been reached with the EU on further improving market access for fish in the period 2009–2014. Norway and the EU will sign a separate agreement on this today.