However, the Norwegian Embassy in Warsaw would like to clarify the following facts regarding the grants:
- Since 2004, Poland has been by far the largest beneficiary of the EEA and Norway Grants, having received more than PLN 4.4 billion to support projects in fields such as environmental protection, energy, health, research, culture, civil society and the justice sector. The current funding period (2009-14) is now coming to an end, and all projects are being concluded.
- Under the grant scheme for the period 2014-2021, which has not yet started, a further PLN 3.3 billion will be made available to Poland for new programmes in a wide range of sectors. Norway provides almost 98 % of the funding available under the EEA and Norway Grants; the remainder is provided by Iceland and Liechtenstein.
- The donor states have for the past year been negotiating new framework agreements (Memoranda of Understanding) with the 15 beneficiary countries for the next period of the EEA and Norway Grants. Agreements have already been reached with six countries - Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Malta, Estonia and Portugal. The negotiations with the other countries, including Poland, are still ongoing.
- Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are not members of the European Union, but are part of the European Single Market through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA and Norway Grants are not a formal part of the EEA Agreement, but are voluntary contributions to the effort to reduce economic and social disparities in Europe. The funding is allocated on the basis of the framework agreements (MoUs) with each beneficiary country. No new allocations from the donor states to the beneficiary country concerned may be made until new framework agreements have been agreed and signed.
- The EEA and Norway Grants can be used to support projects and programmes in 23 different thematic areas. The priority sectors and programme areas are outlined in the Blue Book, which also sets out areas of support and conditions that are legally binding for all beneficiary countries. According to the agreement between the donor states and the EU there will be a mandatory fund for civil society in each beneficiary country.
- A national fund operator for the fund for civil society is to be selected in an open and transparent process when the donors’ secretariat (Financial Mechanism Office - FMO) in Brussels is programme operator. This is the case in all six countries where new framework agreements have been signed. The national fund operators will be independent from central and local authorities and must have good knowledge of the sector and re-granting experience. These basic principles of good governance are of utmost importance to the donor states.
- References have been made in the Polish media to the fact that in a few countries, public institutions served as fund operators in the 2009-14 funding period. In these countries, there were no non-governmental organisations that fulfilled the necessary criteria when the MoUs were agreed. Poland has a well-developed civil society with several organisations that could be eligible to act as fund operator. The donors will encourage all relevant organisations to apply for the important role of fund operator in Poland once the MoUs have been agreed and signed.
- The fund for civil society is an integral part of the overall allocation of PLN 3.3 billion to Poland for the 2014-2021 period, and the negotiations for the whole allocation must be concluded at the same time.
The Embassy hopes that it will be possible to conclude the negotiations between the donor states and Poland soon, so that all relevant sectors, including civil society, can start to benefit from the new funding and can continue to build strong relations between the peoples of Poland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.