Opening address at Risk seminar

Tallinn, 24 September 2014

"This seminar is an opportunity for me to give you an overview of Norway’s relationship with the EU and what we want to achieve with the Grants", said State Secretary Ingvil Næss Stub in her opening address at the Risk seminar in Tallin on the EEA and Norway grants.

Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen,

  • It is an honour and pleasure for me to be present here today.
  • I would like to start by thanking Estonia for hosting this seminar. Estonia is a best practice country when it comes to the implementation and use of the EEA and Norway Grants.
  • I am very happy to be back in Estonia and the beautiful and historic city of Tallinn.
  • And I am pleased to see so many of you here today. This is an important opportunity for us to meet you and to discuss the management of the Grants.
  • This seminar is also an opportunity for me to give you an overview of Norway’s relationship with the EU and what we want to achieve with the Grants.

The big picture – Norway and the EU – common values

  • Europe is undergoing a time of change. Both the financial crisis and Russia’s annexation of Crimea are poignant reminders that we should not take peace, prosperity and the rule of law for granted. Faced with these challenges, we must defend our fundamental values, with individual freedom and responsibility at the core – values that build up trust between people and between countries.
  • While not a member of the European Union, Norway is closely integrated with the EU and deeply committed to the values that underpin European integration. We cooperate closely with the EU and its member states because we share a common set of values and because we recognise the need to find joint solutions to shared challenges.
  • There is broad support both among the Norwegian people and in the Storting for Norway’s continued participation in European cooperation through the EEA Agreement, the Schengen Agreement and other agreements with the EU.

The Government’s EU policy

  • The Norwegian Government engages in the European debate at the earliest possible stage when new policies and rules, that are of importance to Norway are being developed. We pursue a coordinated European policy based on openness, knowledge and political engagement. We are therefore keen to cooperate with all groups in society. The EU member states are important partners for Norway and we intend to strengthen our cooperation with several of them.
  • We have identified five thematic areas for closer cooperation with the EU and the EU member states:
  1. Increased competitiveness and growth,
  2. Higher quality education and research,
  3. An ambitious climate and energy policy,
  4. Enhanced security, and
  5. A global approach to migration.
  • We believe these are the most important issues for securing further progress and enhancing security.

EEA and Norway Grants as an instrument for Norway’s European policy and growth in Europe

  • The EEA Agreement is the cornerstone in our relationship with the EU. Under the Agreement, Norway is a member of the internal market, and harmonises its legislation on trade and the movement of goods and people with EU rules. This creates predictability and stability for Norwegian companies and has been an important contributing factor to our economic growth.
  • But the EEA Agreement is also about our joint responsibility for Europe’s common future. As you are well aware, the EEA and Norway Grants are designed to reduce economic and social disparities and promote democracy, stability and prosperity across the continent to the benefit of all EEA partners.
  • The second objective of the Grants is to strengthen bilateral relations between donor and beneficiary states. We all gain from closer cooperation and the exchange of skills and knowledge. The Estonian programme under green innovation is a good example of how partnerships between Estonian and Norwegian firms have strengthened trade and commercial cooperation between the two countries.
  • To further enhance knowledge, we have established strategic partnerships with several international organisations, including the Council of Europe and Open Society Foundations. Not only do these institutions provide expertise and knowledge; they often play an important part in shaping European policies.
  • The Grants play a unique role in Norway’s cooperation with many EU countries, and we regard the Grants as an excellent instrument for putting our European policy into practice.  

Future areas of cooperation for the EEA and Norway Grants

  • The negotiations for the next Grant period started in January, but – as you know – they have reached a standstill. Agreement has not been reached on either amount or scope. We are concerned about the lack of progress and disappointed by the unrealistic demands being made by the EU. We are, however, committed to continuing our support. We want to promote youth employment through current priorities such as innovation, research, and business development. However, we cannot agree to support countries that are not eligible for funding under the EU Cohesion Fund.
  • The Norwegian Government has set three priorities for future cooperation under the Grants:
    • Strengthening political relevance and focus
    • Continuing cooperation in most of the areas where it works well
    • Enhancing sustainability and results
  • We also want to streamline these efforts and improve implementation. We have therefore proposed priority sectors that reflect the challenges Europe is facing, and where we believe the Grants can provide added value:

The five priority sectors are:

  • Innovation, research and education
  • Climate change, energy and environment, including energy security
  • Justice and home affairs
  • Social inclusion and poverty reduction
  • Culture, civil society, good governance, fundamental rights and freedoms.
  • We hope for a speedy conclusion of negotiations on the Grants, but at the same time we are worried that further delay could have a negative impact on implementation.

 Where we are and a focus on results

  • After spending several years designing, negotiating and initiating some 150 programmes, we are now in the middle of implementation. Progress over the coming months is crucial.
  • I would like to emphasise the importance of maintaining the focus on results during the implementation phase. We are all accountable for achieving the expected results and thus helping to meet the overall objectives of the Grants.
  • Results-based management and effective identification and handling of risk are valuable tools for ensuring optimal results and efficient use of resources. This seminar is an important opportunity to share experience in this field.
  • Almost as important as achieving results is communicating them. This is why it is vital to have your reports on the results of the programmes, and on how these results contribute to achieving the overall objectives.
  • As you know, the EEA Grants are funded by taxpayers in Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland. To ensure continued support for this system, management of the Grants and programmes must comply with the principles of good governance. These include accountability, transparency, participation and responsiveness to people’s needs. In addition, funding must be allocated in accordance with principles of good financial management and the agreements we have concluded. In this way, the Grants and the way they are managed in each of the recipient countries will also reflect the common European values that have made our continent an area of peace and stability.

Concluding remarks

  • Finally, I would like to thank you all for the important work you are doing and for your untiringefforts to achieve results. We are pleased to see an increasing number of partnerships developing – they will benefit us all.
  • I am sure you will use this seminar to share and discuss ideas and experience. I wish you a very successful seminar.
  • Thank you