Environment, social and economic matters – in these areas Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein support financially small and medium-sized cities in Poland in the new edition of the so-called EEA and Norway grants. The agreement, which will allow the implementation of initiatives in the "Local Development" Programme, was signed on March 25, 2019 by the Minister of Investment and Economic Development Jerzy Kwieciński and the Ambassador of Norway Olav Myklebust.
Money for the development of Polish cities comes from the EEA and Norway Grants, i.e. a special pool of funds which Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have awarded to several Central and South European and the Baltic countries. In return, these three countries have access to the internal market of the European Union although they are not members of it.
Poland will benefit from these funds for the third time. The amount available for 2014-2021 (periods of implementation of the EEA and Norway Grants and the EU funds do not coincide) is EUR 809 million. The "Local Development" Programme Agreement signed on March 25, 2019 amounts to 117.6 million of which 15%, i.e. EUR 17.6 million, constitutes a national contribution. This is the second programme running in the 3rd edition of the EEA and Norway Grants. On March 8 of this year, the Agreement on the implementation of the "Education" Programme was signed, whose budget amounts to EUR 23.5 million.
What is the "Local Development" Programme?
The “Local Development” Programme aims to strengthen social and economic cohesion by raising the quality of the environment, entrepreneurship, efficiency of public administration and living standards for all residents of small and medium-sized cities.
Support will be available for measures to improve the quality of life in small and medium-sized cities, i.a. through projects to improve air quality (including the transition to renewable energy sources or low-emission public transport), reduction of unemployment and labour migration to large urban centres, supporting entrepreneurship and the local economy, and strengthening the local labour market. It is also a chance to implement projects that fit into the housing policy. The Programme also puts an emphasis on strengthening and improving the functioning of local government administration.
"The ‘Local Development’ Programme represents support for small homelands. Our policy of sustainable development is aimed at eliminating social and economic differences between regions which are currently noticeable not only in Poland but all over the world. These disparities are particularly visible between urban agglomerations and small towns or rural areas. The Norway Grants for comprehensive development projects will reduce these differences” – explains Minister Jerzy Kwieciński.
The Programme is aimed at 255 small and medium-sized cities with the most difficult socio-economic situation. These places were indicated during a study conducted by the Polish Academy of Sciences.
One call for proposals is planned, open to the above-mentioned 255 cities and which will take place in the second quarter of 2019. Individual infrastructure projects and soft projects in such areas as: environment, social affairs, economic and demographic matters can be supported with amounts of EUR 3 up to 10 million.
What are EEA and Norway Grants?
The full and official name of the so-called EEA and Norway Grants is the Norwegian Financial Mechanism and the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism.
The main goal of the EEA and Norway Grants is to reduce economic and social differences within the EEA and to strengthen bilateral relations between the Donors and the beneficiary State. In exchange for financial assistance, Donor States benefit from access to the EU internal market despite the fact that they are not the members of it.
Poland benefits from this money for the third time. In the last, i.e. the 2nd edition of the Grants in the period 2009-2014, the pool of funds for Poland amounted to EUR 578.1 million. It allowed to support over 1300 projects. In the 3rd edition of the Grants, Poland with an allocation of EUR 809.3 million (out of a total pool of over EUR 2.8 billion), as in previous editions, will remain the largest beneficiary of this money in the EU.
In Poland the entity responsible for coordinating the implementation of the EEA and Norway Grants is the Ministry of Investment and Economic Development. In the process it cooperates with the Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels. Individual programmes of the 3rd edition of the Grants will be implemented by Polish public institutions. The exceptions are, as in previous editions, the “Civil Society” and the ”Social Dialogue – Decent Work” areas, which will be managed by the Donors via Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels and Innovation Norway respectively.
Programmes under the EEA and Norway Grants will be implemented by 2024. The exception is the Bilateral Cooperation Fund, which will be implemented by April 30, 2025.