MAgyar NORvég KApcsolatok

Önkormányzati kapacitás-építés norvég-magyar együttműködéssel

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Interview with Ambassador Tove Skarstein

Summary of the interview of Tove Skarstein, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway

Summary of the interview of Tove Skarstein, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway


-                     Why do you think it is important that Norway supports Hungary through the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms?

While Norway is not part of the European Union, it does not mean that we are not active participants of the European cooperation. Through the European Economic Area, Norway is a full member of the EU inner market. However, this cooperation with the EU is about much more than strengthening the economic relationships. Apart from agreement based on EEA, we are members of the Schengen area, participate in the EU Research Framework program. On the other hand, we would like to contribute to the decreasing of the social and economic differences within the EU, the most important tool of this effort is the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms.

Hungary was one of the most important beneficiaries of the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms in the last period, it received 135 million EURO, around 100 projects and so-called grant bases were implemented. In the present period, this sum was increased to 153 million EURO in 12 areas. As in all countries, in Hungary as well beneficial areas were determined in the framework of a bilateral agreement, among which capacity-building for local authorities and the theme of decent work and tripartite dialogue. In the framework of the programmes, the calls for proposals are published on a continuous basis. The final closing of the projects is April, 2016.

-                     Which are the main aims, principals of the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms?

When it comes to the main aims and principles of the Norway grant, there are two very important objectives. One of them is the decrease of the social and economic differences in the beneficiary states, thus the main aim is for Hungary to reach the average economic and level of the EU fast and that this development should remain sustainable and citizen-centred.  The 12 supported areas are varied when it comes to their main focuses, themes. It is, however important to mention that we special focuses such as on environmental sustainability, or on the support of disadvantaged social groups (Roma minority, endangered children and youth) within the EEA and Norway Financial Mechanisms.  Our emphasized goal is to support areas and concrete activities that otherwise could have limited financial resources or could not receive other EU funds at all.  We wish to contribute to the sustainability of socially useful activities in a way that they may generate new projects and supports.

In the present period, one of the general objectives is the strengthening of bilateral relationships, thus the effort to generate various strategic and project-type cooperation between the Norwegian and Hungarian organizations (local authorities, enterprises, civil organizations).  The programmes were designed in close cooperation of the Hungarian and Norwegian side, thus the programme for local authorities for example were developed through the cooperation of the National Development Agency and KS.  Certain programs, such as the bilateral local government capacity-building program or the Research Fund require that there should be partnership involved between the Hungarian and the Norwegian organizations, whereas in other cases partnerships are not indispensable, only result in extra points.

Sustainability of the projects is important and for this reason it is important that the given projects should be in harmony with the strategic documents of the partner organizations. We also find it important to support activities that contribute to the building of a more tolerant society based on solidarity through creating equal opportunities for men and women for example, or the strengthening of basic democratic and  human rights.

I think that the capacity building project led by TÖOSZ contributes to the reaching of these above goals as all these pieces of criteria are present in the concept of MANORKA.

-                      What do you think about the projects implemented in the previous phase of the Financial Mechanisms, especially what do you think about the municipal projects, developments?

I think that local authorities are visibly among the most successful in applying for the grant and implementing successful projects. While the Mayor’s Academy created by TÖOSZ was a project before I arrived to Hungary, I received many feedbacks concerning its success. It is at the same time not an accident that KS already indicated in the beginning of the next period that they wish to continue their cooperation with the Hungarian local authorities. This clearly indicates that they evaluated the first phase as a success. As a result of this, KS plays a more active and subtle part in the period from 2009-2014, also as a project partner in the project elaborated by TÖOSZ.

-                      We were very glad that you participated at our opening ceremony in Mátraháza. What were your impressions of this project based on this event?

I always participate at the events covered by the Norway grant with great delight, it is quite important for me get to know the participants of the different projects personally.  It was a prestigious opportunity for me to participate at the opening of one of the predefined projects. It was great to see the commitment, enthusiasm of the Hungarian partners, ministries, professional and interest-representing organizations and the Norwegian partners as well as the local authorities and mayors.  It is exactly this type of cooperation that guarantees not only the strengthening of bilateral relations but also the sustainability of the results of the project.

-                      Our newspaper is a chronicle of the MANORKA project that will reach a wide spectrum of Hungarian local authorities. What is your most important message for Hungarian local leaders?

I hope that this project will be as successful as the previous one. I think that this is definitely a common goal of the Hungarian and the Norwegian sides, local authorities play a central role in reaching the above defined general goals, and thanks to the project through more efficient, citizen-friendly local services, they could become more successful.  I think that the exchange of experiences and knowledge are important tools for these developments. The most important message based on the Norwegian or Northern model is that the efforts made towards consensus, the involvement of effected parties in the preparation procedures in an extensive circle are important conditions of success. It is possible that to make decisions in this way is slower, however a substantive planning and consensus in a wide circle will breed its fruits in the long run.  In addition to this, suitable consultation and consensus would play good effects on the general trust towards and judgement of political leaders, this is I think much needed in Hungary. I also find it important to persuade Hungarian politicians to involve more women in the work and decision-making processes. I think that Norwegian examples and experiences should be adopted in this area as well, as a higher representation of woman in politics, economic life and job market is not only important from the point of view of human rights but it pays off in economic terms as well, results in a quicker economic development and better living conditions.  For this reason, it is a great pleasure for me that MANORKA deals with gender issues and involves an important pilot program element as well.


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