Research on the environment and climate, health, gender equality, polar science and social science will be given priority under the comprehensive new bilateral cooperation agreement between Norway and Poland. The Research Council of Norway will be the Norwegian partner in research initiatives.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway and Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland recently signed the most comprehensive bilateral agreement ever between the two countries. The agreement provides Poland with over NOK 4.6 billion (EUR 578 million) in EEA and Norway Grants . Of this, NOK 290 million will be set aside for research cooperation.
Close partners in research
"The agreement opens up significant opportunities for Norwegian research institutions," says Executive Director of the Division for Society and Health Jesper Simonsen of the Research Council.
The previous agreement between the two countries resulted in a good amount of productive research collaboration, but many participants found themselves bogged down in red tape. "We have worked hard to simplify the procedures this time around," assures Mr Simonsen.
Promoting social development
Norway will be leaving a green footprint in Poland through its investments under the agreement. Nearly one-half of the EEA and Norway Grants contribution ' just under NOK 2 billion ' will be invested in green projects and programmes.
This includes over NOK 1 billion to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) at the coal-fired power plant Belchatów. Poland has one of the highest levels of CO2 emissions of all the European countries. Gassnova, the Norwegian state enterprise for CCS, will be the Norwegian partner in this project.
Public health is another major area of cooperation under the agreement. Some NOK 560 million will be invested in programmes to improve access to, and the quality of, health services in Poland. Areas to be given priority include family planning, combating lifestyle diseases and dealing with challenges connected to an ageing population.
Cooperation within the area of justice and home affairs will continue. Roughly NOK 320 million will be invested in initiatives to strengthen the Polish judiciary, increase the use of alternatives to prison and improve training for both inmates and prison staff.
Norway has been one of the largest contributors to the development of civil society in Poland. This will be sustained in the new agreement period in the form of a fund of nearly NOK 300 million. Non-governmental organisations will be able to apply for support from the fund for projects to promote democracy, social justice and sustainable development. In addition, considerable funding (NOK 480 million) will be set aside for preserving and revitalising Polish cultural heritage.
25 percent of the EEA and Norway Grants contribution is designated to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) at the coal-fired power plant BelchatÃ³w, the largest in Europe. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Sizeable Norwegian contribution
The EEA and Norway Grants were established in connection with the enlargement of the European Economic Area (EEA) with 10 new countries ' Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta ' in May 2004. The funding scheme was extended in 2007 to encompass Romania and Bulgaria as well.
In December 2009 the EEA EFTA States Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein signed a new agreement with the EU to provide funding to reduce social and economic disparities in the EEA for the period May 2009-April 2014. Norway's contribution for the period will total NOK 15 billion, or 97 per cent of the entire EEA budget.
The objective of the EEA and Norway Grants is twofold: to reduce social and economic disparities in the EEA and the extended EU and to strengthen bilateral relations between Norway and the beneficiary states.
Giving high priority to research
"In the next three years, research cooperation between Norway and the 12 countries under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme may total up to NOK 1 billion," states Mr Simonsen. "All projects must have a Norwegian partner," he adds.
The EEA and Norway Grants are not only important for the beneficiary states. They also provide Norway with a gateway to more widespread research cooperation under the EU Framework for Research and Technological Development.
The Research Council of Norway
Division for Society and Health
Staff, Society and Health
Phone: 22 03 73 31