Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide met the European Commission’s Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič in Brussels on Monday evening. There is still some distance between the parties when it comes to what Norway and the other two EFTA countries must pay, and they also do not agree on market access for fish and seafood.
Norway and Iceland want better market access for seafood to the EU market, and the EU wants more money.
– We will look at some sketches about market access, and we agree to have new talks during the week, says Eide to Energi og Klima.
The negotiations have been ongoing since June 2022. Eide says that the EU and Norway now agree to reach an agreement before the first of December. An agreement on the EEA funds is, among other things, important for the green shift in several of the EU’s poorest member states.
The EEA funds are mainly used for projects within the four areas:
- Innovation and research
- Energy, environment and climate
- Good governance and fundamental rights
- Justice and Home Affairs
The EU wants more money
In the last seven-year period, Norway has paid more than 97 percent of the EEA funds. In total, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have paid 2.8 billion euros, or well over NOK 30 billion.
For a number of organizations that work with everything from the environment to rights for sexual minorities, the EEA funds have in many cases been one of the few or the only source of support, according to a Fafo report.
Norway has offered more for a new period than the 2.8 billion euros, but the EU has not been satisfied with the offer on the table. The Norwegian foreign minister will not be specific about how big the gap is in kroner or in euros.
But according to Eide, the distance is smaller now.
Urgent with agreement
It is urgent for the parties to come to an agreement. During the spring, the scheme runs out of money. Then a number of projects in the EU’s 14 poorest countries can be put on hold. Hungary is not included, because there was disagreement about the implementation of the scheme.
In the period 2014-21, the limit was 2.8 billion euros distributed among 15 EU countries. Since the EEA Agreement entered into force in 1994, the scheme has been renegotiated several times. Each time it has become more expensive. Norway pays around 97 percent of this. What each EFTA country pays is calculated in relation to the countries’ GDP.
It is the former Eastern Bloc countries plus Greece and Portugal that get money. Poland received the most with over NOK 6 billion in the period 2014-21.
Alf Ole Ask is Energy and Climate’s correspondent in Brussels. Ask writes about what is happening in the climate and energy field in the EU, and how this affects us in Norway. Energy and Climate is Norwegian Climate Foundation online newspaper. The position in Brussels is supported by Agenda Vestlandet, Fritt Ord and the Bergesen Foundation.
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