'The Norwegian Government has invested a lot time and efforts in implementing the EEA and Norway Grants strategically and efficiently. It is satisfying that the review concludes that our support contributes to both reducing social and economic disparities in Europe and to the strengthening of cooperation and relations between Norway and the beneficiary countries,' said Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen. Read more: What are the EEA and Norway Grants? The UK-based Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Services (CSES) has been contracted to assess the overall progress and impact of our cooperation programmes.
• Many programmes will produce long-term impacts without further intervention.
• The potential for impact is seen as greater in programmes with a specific focus, rather than attempting to address the full breadth of issues within a programme area.
• The programmes deliver short term economic benefits in local communities where projects are implemented. As a by-product of investments in environmental protection, energy efficiency and public health, the support also have the potential to deliver long-term economic benefits.
• The programme-based approach has improved the efficiency and the potential effectiveness of the Grants compared to the previous period, and has forged the opportunity for Donor Programme Partners to have a positive impact in the design and implementation of programmes.
Filling the funding gap.
The review also highlights that our programmes are focused and customised to the needs of the beneficiary countries, the priorities of the donors and aligned with national policy and wider European goals. The programmes both supplement and complement areas that are not covered by the EU Structural Funds. In that sense our Grants are also filling a funding gap. This includes in particular, investments in the fields of justice and home affairs, support for civil society organisations and culture.
Active steps to secure impact.
Yet, while the Mid-Term Review found that our programmes are doing well overall, it also highlights some key shortcomings, such as the fact that there has been delays in the allocation of funds and in programme implementation. This is mainly due to delays in internal processes in the EU that resulted in the late signing of the agreements. However, by extending the eligibility period for programmes until 2017, the donors took active steps to ensure that the planned results and objectives will be achieved by programme closure in 2017. 'This year we will launch a new results and data portal online. Through this portal we will highlight achieved results and make it possible to follow the money all the way down to the projects,' said Bakke-Jensen.
Our support to energy efficiency in Poland serves as an example of programme results that lead to desired impact without further intervention. Poland generates most of its electricity from coal. Through our EUR 140 million energy programme more than 100 projects aiming to reduce the demand for fossil fuels and expand the use of renewable energy solutions in buildings have received funding. It is estimated by the programme operator that the programme will contribute to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to just below 500 000 tonnes/year.
The mid-term review includes 21 recommendations from the Centre for Strategy & Evaluation Services. A follow-up plan will be put in place by the donor countries to ensure that relevant and applicable recommendations are taken into consideration in the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021 programme period. Key recommendations regarding the tools for improving and strengthening programme design and programme management requirements include:
• Extend the programme period from 5 to seven years, given the time taken to negotiate, approve and develop programmes
• Reduce the number of programmes in the next funding period • Expand the role of DPPs to include the communicating in their home country and attracting donor project partners
• Provide more in-depth support to NFPs and POs in the programme development process • Undertake research into the extent to which the programmes’ effects have been mainstreamed into national policy or practise