Norway will boost its support for civil society projects in lower-income European Union member states to help avert what the country describes as a rise of racism in eastern and southern Europe.
“We will focus on civil society and one reason why we do it is because we see racism on the increase,” Ingrid Schulerud, a Norwegian diplomat, said according to the EUObserver.
Increasing funding for democracy-related projects managed by non-governmental organizations was discussed in ongoing negotiations for the renewal of a 1.79 billion euros (USD2.3 billion) funding scheme available to Greece, Spain, Portugal and several of the EU’s newest member states from 2009 to 2014. Norway, which is not a EU member, provides 97 percent of the funding for the scheme dubbed as EEA Grants. Liechtenstein and Iceland also contribute to the scheme.
“At least 10 percent of the funding will now be specifically earmarked for non-govermental organisations, with Norway saying that democracy-supporting measures are badly needed in times of economic crisis,” EUObserver says.
The grants for NGOs are expected to “fill a niche” that the EU is currently not covering, Schulerud explained.
She says: “Our funding has been vital for civil society in these countries as national or local sources have not been able to fill the gap from those that withdrew, and EU funds were not really available for NGOs.”
Norway has launched a public consultation process, which will run through Oct. 22, to seek input for new guidelines that will govern the allocation of grants to NGOs.