FNI Report 17/2006. Lysaker, FNI, 2006, 44 p. In Norwegian.
After the accession of ten new member states to the EU in 2004, EEA’s EFTA members (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) established the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism to support social and economic cohesion within the enlarged EEA. Poland, Hungary and The Czech Republic are the three largest beneficiary states and are to receive 2/3 of the available funds. Protection of the environment is one of the main priority sectors, and this report compares the “EEA-grants” to the EU’s own environmental financing. This is done in order to discuss how the funding schemes differ in their approach to the environmental challenges in Central and Eastern Europe and to what extent they relate to each other. These are the main conclusions:
• The framework documents for the EEA-grants give broad definitions of the environmental priority areas that resemble the EU’s financing schemes and the priorities in the Sixth Environmental Action Plan.
• There is little common direction to the environmental financing in the three different countries. The framework documents and the first open calls show that biodiversity and non-investment projects for capacity building are somewhat more popular in Hungary and The Czech Republic, while Poland is more focused upon large infrastructural projects related to energy saving, waste and water treatment.
• The first open calls have been very popular and ten times the available funding has on average been applied for in the beneficiary states. Most applications are within areas that are already covered by Structural Funds from the EU, but as the EEA-grants cover smaller projects than the EU, these funds have become popular amongst local municipalities.
• Blockgrants establishing NGO and research funds will be important for spreading the EEA-grants throughout society, for non-investment and biodiversity projects, as these sectors are losing out in the open calls.
• Some policy recommendations on how the EEA-grants can improve in the area of environmental financing are given in the last chapter.