Speech/statement | Date: 24/08/2015 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Through the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway make an important contribution to strengthening economic and social cohesion and strengthening bilateral relations in the EEA. The past year has been one of delivery. From the early results coming through, we can start to see how the programmes are generating positive change, write the EEA Ministers from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in the foreword to the annual report.
All 150 programmes are now up and running. Over 4000 projects have been contracted so far. In 2014, we also welcomed Croatia as the 16th partner country. This annual report provides an overview of the work underway and sets out examples of achievements in each of these 16 countries.
We also highlight results achieved in three key sectors: innovation and skills, civil society, and justice and home affairs. Our support in these areas is clearly complementary to wider EU priorities on sustainable and inclusive growth and responds to challenges which impede the full implementation of the internal market.
Innovation and skills
Many countries in Europe have struggled to adjust to the rapidly changing global economy. We need to create new growth and employment through investment in innovation, research and education. That's why significant funding is targeted at these areas. A total of 155 research institutions and 1 500 researchers have been involved in joint projects with counterparts in Iceland and Norway. Nearly 900 students, educational staff and researchers have taken part in exchanges between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and a number of the beneficiary countries.
Over €160 million goes towards strengthening civil society in all 16 partner countries. An independent evaluation of the NGO programmes earlier this year found that, "the programmes have increased the capacity of civil society in Central and Southern Europe and helped to mobilise citizens to voice their concerns and actively engage with governments". More than 2 300 projects have received funding so far, 718 in the area of democracy and human rights. This support is needed today more than ever to help counter negative trends across Europe, such as the rise of extremism and growing mistrust in democratic institutions.
Justice and home affairs
We also seek to strengthen judicial systems to help create more predictable environments for business investment, as well as improve human rights and the rule of law. Norway contributes over €140 million to improving access to and quality of justice systems, fighting cross-border crime and improving correctional services. Results so far are impressive: almost 4 400 legal professionals have received training, 4 800 people have benefitted from free legal advice and nearly 8 000 staff trained to provide better correctional services.
Achieving our goal of a stronger and more inclusive Europe requires that we meet shared challenges through efficient and effective cooperation. That's why building enduring partnerships is at the centre of our efforts. We are pleased to see the effects of bilateral cooperation in all countries. Eighty seven of our 150 programmes are carried out in cooperation with partners from the donor countries; a quarter of all projects have a donor partner, enabling mutual exchange and sharing of best practice.
Drawing on the strengths and expertise of our partners, be they individuals, government agencies or companies in the donor countries, we have been able to introduce fresh thinking and innovative solutions. Strategic partnerships with pan-European bodies like the Council of Europe and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights have also continued to flourish.
Taking a look back, we take pride in what has been achieved in our partner countries so far. This is however just the start; many more results are still to come as implementation progresses in all countries. We hope you enjoy reading about the results of our work and cooperation.
Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Dr. Aurelia Frick
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Minister of EEA and EU Affairs,