A total of EUR 215 million in EEA Grants and Norway Grants will be made available for Hungary in the next, 2014-21 funding period, Henning Stiro, director of the Financial Mechanism Office, told reporters in Budapest on Thursday at a conference marking the end of the preceding funding period.
The EEA Grants and Norway Grants are the financial contributions of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein towards the reduction of economic and social disparities in the European Economic Area (EEA) and to strengthen bilateral relations with 16 EU and EEA Member States in Northern, Central and Southern Europe.
Addressing a conference marking the end of the 2009-14 funding period, Stiro said he was confident that talks about the next program period could be wound up soon and open the way to the use of the EUR 215 million.
Eszter Vitályos, minister of state for European Union developments, confirmed that preparations are underway for the EEA and Norway Grants made available to Hungary in 2014-21. She said bilateral talks will soon be concluded once all pending issues are resolved.
Hungary is the third biggest beneficiary of the grants, Stiro noted. While noting difficulties in implementation, Vitályos said the previous period had brought outstanding results.
Norwegian Ambassador Olav Berstad said Hungarian projects have speeded up in the past year and "very complex projects could be implemented within the budget period." At the same time, he said not everything went smoothly and the utilization of the financing was lower than in the 2004-2009 period, when the original allocation was exceeded by 9%.
"Some EUR 50 million actually got lost under the arrangement program," he said. "We will soon sign the contracts about the 2014-21 period, but we would not like to compromise the values that we deeply believe in both Norway and in Western and Eastern Europe," he added, noting that Norwegians pay great attention to ensuring that societies work in an open and democratic way both at home and around the world.
According to earlier information, a total of EUR 153.3 mln was available to Hungary in the 2009-14 funding period. MTI recalled that the accounting period for 2009-14 funding was extended until spring 2017 to make up for a one and half-year suspension of payments for most programs from the fund over a dispute between donors and the Hungarian authorities, who moved administration of the funds out of the central government administration.
The suspension, which started in the spring of 2014, was lifted in December 2015 after Hungarian authorities and donors came to an agreement regarding the control functions and implementation of the grants in Hungary and on respecting the agreed legal framework for the implementation of the civil society program in Hungary.