The conference inaugurated the key stage of delivering projects supported by Norway and EEA grants as part of the “Local Development” Programme. Agreements entered into with 29 medium-sized cities and towns over the period of November 2021 until April 2022 will allow them to deliver comprehensive projects designed to limit unfavourable development phenomena, and improve living standards for local residents. The event was attended by Mr. Anders H. Eide, Ambassador of Norway to Poland, representatives of OECD, the Association of Polish Cities and Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), representatives of 29 Polish governments selected in competition procedure and their Norwegian partners, and state administration representatives of Norwegian and EEA Financial Mechanism Donor States: Iceland, Liechtenstein and i Norway.
“EEA Financial Mechanism and Norwegian Financial Mechanism goals include bilateral relations promotion, the projects also intended to support bilateral collaboration with Donor States, i.e. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein”, said Maciej Aulak, director of the Department of Assistance Programmes at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy.
Funds supporting the development of Polish cities have been allocated from a special-purpose pool of funds granted by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein to over a dozen Central and Southern European and Baltic States. In exchange, all three countries, while not European Union member states, are granted access to the EU’s internal market.
Two hundred and fifty-five cities and towns were invited to submit projects as part of the open call procedure. The Project Selection Committee approved 54 cities and towns for the next project stage. While the initial funding scheme had assumed 15 projects to be financed, the Project Selection Committee – working together with the Programme Operator and Donor States – decided that the list would be expanded to include all Complete Project Proposals (submitted by 29 cities and towns) meeting the scoring requirement of at least 60% in substantive evaluation. The decision was primarily associated with the need to support a larger group of cities and towns than originally planned, in view of their difficult socio-economic condition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the ranking list had been expanded, the Programme impact was amplified by increasing the number of cities and towns entering New Development Paths.
Previous outcomes of delivering urban projects, benefits associated with bilateral co-operation, use of the external OECD perspective, and plans for the future were discussed in the course of a two-day meeting at panel discussions actively attended by Polish, Norwegian and Icelandic local government officials, and representatives of the Programme Operator (Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy), OECD, and Norwegian and Icelandic local partnering organisations, the exchange assisted by Association of Polish Cities staff.