Danuta Hübner, the Commissioner responsible for Regional Policy, met in Brussels with the Norwegian Minister of Regional Development and Local Government, Ms Erna Solberg and discussed both cross-border co-operation issues and a memorandum concerning EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms to support cohesion policy.
Highlighting the fact that Norwegian regions are actively involved in cross-border co-operation programmes in the field of regional policy, Commissioner Danuta Hübner said: "Norway has played an active role in European cross-border programmes for the last 10 years clearly bringing added value to common actions. Norwegian partners are currently involved in over 300 INTERREG projects across 7 programmes contributing with a funding reaching EUR 130 million for 2000 - 2006. These range from small-scale, local cross-border projects, to large multi-million euro strategic projects (e.g. Northern Maritime Corridor project dealing with maritime security issues from Murmansk to the English Channel)" said Danuta Hübner.
INTERREG projects concern economic, social and territorial development issues such as support for small and medium-sized enterprises, training courses, and projects in the fields of environment, tourism and culture. Whereas EU funding covers participation to EU regions, Norway provides funding under its own regional policy instruments.
The Commissioner also discussed with Minister Solberg Norway's contribution to the EEA Financial Mechanism.
In May 2004, the European Economic Area (EEA) was expanded to 28 countries sharing access to the internal market. The EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism were established to support social and economic cohesion within the enlarged area. The ten new Members States will be eligible for assistance from both Mechanisms. The EEA Financial Mechanism will also grant assistance to Spain, Portugal and Greece.
In the memorandum given during the meeting to the Commissioner by the Norwegian Minister it is said: " These two Mechanisms aim at enabling the new Member States to participate fully in the Internal Market and to reduce the social and economic disparities within the EEA".
In total, the financial mechanisms will make available 1.17 billion euros over the five year period - 1May 2004 to 30 April 2009 - supporting projects in a wide range of priority sectors such as protection of environment, regional development, cross-border co-operation, conservation of the European heritage, health and childcare and development of human resources.
A joint seminar aiming at focusing on experience and best practises from various EU pre-accession instruments, structural funds and cohesion funds, the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms, in relevant Commission DGs and other EU agencies and institutions will be held with DG REGIO in the beginning of June 2005.
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