Report: Bilateral relations strengthened under the EEA and Norway Grants

16.08.2016 // The EEA and Norway Grants are an effective tool for strengthening relations between Norway and the beneficiary countries, an independent evaluation has concluded.

 ‘I am delighted that the report paints an overwhelmingly positive picture of how the EEA and Norway Grants enhance cooperation between Norway and the beneficiary countries. The EEA and Norway Grants provide opportunities for Norwegian public agencies, companies, researchers, students, NGOs, the social partners, cultural sector workers and others to gain invaluable international experience and expertise,’ said Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Elisabeth Vik Aspaker. 

The EEA and Norway Grants have two objectives: to reduce social and economic disparities in the EEA, and to strengthen political, economic and cultural ties between Norway and the beneficiary countries on the other.

The Danish consulting group COWI A/S was commissioned to assess to what extent and how the Grants have so far contributed towards strengthening bilateral relations between donor and beneficiary states. The report emphasises that they have been successful in this respect.

Cooperation and partnerships

In one of the surveys carried out by COWI, in which all respondents were involved in the implementation of the Grants, 72% answered that the funding has strengthened bilateral relations to a high or very high extent.

One important success factor highlighted by the report is having good and relevant partners in both the donor and beneficiary countries. Partnerships have been established through programmes, projects under the programmes, and bilateral funds. 

Almost 80 out of 150 programmes have been implemented through close partnerships between public bodies in the donor countries and their partners in the beneficiary countries. Of the more than 6500 projects, almost 30 % have one or more partners from Norway or the two other donor countries (see table below).

  Iceland Liechtenstein Norway Total
Number of Donor Programme Partners 2 1 20 23
Number of Programmes with DPPs involved 13 9 77 *79
Number of projects with partner(s) from donor countries 275 26 1669 *1879

* Individual programmes and projects may have several donor partners

The wide-ranging cooperation under programmes and projects has been established through network-building, professional exchanges, study tours, conferences and seminars, cooperation committees and bilateral funds.

The cooperation has produced good results in a number of areas, including research, innovation and climate change adaptation. It has also increased knowledge and understanding across national borders. The long-term impact of the Grants can be seen when cooperation between donor and beneficiary countries continues after the funding period has ended, often as part of wider European networks.

‘Norwegian public agencies participating as Donor Programme Partners in the implementation of the EEA and Norway Grants report that they have also gained greater understanding of EU processes and insight into how they work. This is invaluable given the Government’s objective that Norway should be more assertive and present its views more clearly in the early stages of debate on issues of European policy, if it is to be able to influence important decisions in the EU,’ said Ms Aspaker.

Challenges

The evaluation report by COWI also points out that a lack of available partners in the donor states, including Norway, can be a barrier to achieving the objective of strengthened bilateral cooperation, as can slow and cumbersome administrative procedures and bureaucratic rules in the beneficiary countries.

‘We will take COWI’s recommendations into account in our continued work to improve the implementation of the EEA and Norway Grants, and will intensify our efforts to disseminate information to potential Norwegian partners,’ said Ms Aspaker.


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