Sunday

16th May 2021

Norway defends NGOs in Hungary and Poland

  • Under the next Norway scheme, which runs until 2021, Poland stands to receive €809 million, Hungary €215 million in aid. (Photo: EEA and Norway grants)

Norway's prime minister Erna Solberg has said Hungary and Poland must allow independent funding of charities as part of a €1 billion Norwegian aid scheme, which is currently up for renewal.

Poland and Hungary want Norway to waive a requirement that EEA (European Economic Area) funds to civil society must be channelled through an administrative body that is meant to be independent of their governments. But Solberg, commenting for the first time on the ongoing negotiations, rejected the demand.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We cannot allow Poland and Hungary to control the money to civil society. We must have independent organisations that assign them," she told Norwegian press agency NTB.

She also warned against "illiberal" powers that do not understand the need for an independent civil society.

"The civic sector shouldn't be controlled by the state," said the Norwegian PM, who heads a coalition between Conservatives and the anti-immigrant, libertarian Progress party.

Solberg raised the matter with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker during a visit to Brussels last week.

Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, in exchange for their access to the EU single market, fund initiatives aimed at reducing social and economic disparities in 15 poorer EU member states, through the so-called EEA funds.

Norway is the biggest donor and Poland the largest beneficiary, followed by Romania and Hungary.

Under the next scheme, which runs until 2021, Poland stands to receive €809 million and Hungary €215 million in aid.

A small part of the funds, roughly 10 percent, is dedicated to civic society, a mandatory part of the support programme.

Negotiations between Norway and Poland are stuck in deadlock. Another round of negotiations with Hungary will take place later in May.

Norway's EU minister Frank Bakke-Jensen, formally in charge of the talks, told NTB he hoped to close negotiations by the end of the year.

He said he did not worry about them dragging out.

"It's a good training camp for young democracies to sit at such a negotiating table," he said.

Interview

Polish government in bid to defund NGOs

Ruling Law and Justice has promised to overhaul the NGO sector. The move could strain relations with Norway, a major donor to Polish civic life.

Poland avoids talks on rule-of-law sanctions

EU ministers meeting in Brussels asked the Polish government to reverse its judicial reform, in their first discussion of the European Commission's probe.

Feature

Gay rights at heart of Poland's value conflict

Anti-gay statements are part of an anti-EU narrative propagated by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party. But only a few politicians from the opposition are willing to challenge the image of Poland as a homophobic country.

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Opinion

Sweden's non-lockdown didn't work - why not?

The Swedish king would have been better advised to use his annual Christmas interview to call for unity of purpose and shed light on the political roots of the country's response.

Column

BioNTech: Stop talking about their 'migration background'

I understand that the German-Turkish community - often subjected to condescension in Germany - celebrated the story. Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türecki represent scientific excellence and business success at the highest level.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us