Through the EEA (European Economic Area) and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway help to reduce economic and social disparities and strengthen cooperation with 16 countries1 in Central and Southern Europe.
For the period 2009-2014, €1.8 billion has been set aside under the Grants. Projects may be implemented until 2016 and funding is channelled through 150 programmes. Of the €993.5 million set aside under the EEA Grants, Norway provides 95.8%, Iceland 3.0% and Liechtenstein 1.2%.
The Norway Grants are financed by Norway alone and amount to €804.6 million The EEA and Norway Grants are linked to the Agreement on the European Economic Area through which Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway participate in the internal market with the EU.
The EEA and Norway Grants annual report provides an overview of the aims and achievements of the funding provided by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in the beneficiary countries in 2013-14.
In the report Hans Øyvind Nilsen, Adviser, International Department at LO is asked about his experience of working with social partners in the beneficiary countries.
In Norway the involvement of social partners is well-established. How have you found social partner involvement in the beneficiary countries?
There are a whole host of recipients, all unique, with their own culture and history. If I were to generalise, it would be to say that the parties in all countries want to participate in social dialogue. Involvement varies a lot between beneficiary countries.
What are the main challenges faced by the beneficiary countries in improving social dialogue?
There are many factors. I would say that one of the main issues is trust. Without trust and respect you cannot have dialogue and cooperation, and without cooperation you won’t find good solutions. Dialogue should help overcome conflicts and entrenched positions. Trust and respect must be earned and it takes a long time to build. Unfortunately, it can be torn down very quickly. Role clarification is also important and organisations must speak on behalf of their members.
Recruitment and organisation are of vital importance to both sides.
The tripartite model includes government involvement. Has the Fund been successful in persuading governments in beneficiary countries to engage in social dialogue?
Government involvement is essential. Governments need to see the added value dialogue brings and how it can facilitate cooperation between the different social partners. The Fund for Decent Work is — in my opinion — not there to convince governments about their role in tripartite cooperation, they know this already. However, its value isn’t always fully understood. The Fund allows social partners in the beneficiary countries to invite the government into their respective projects and lets them learn why this is an important system that benefits all partners.
Do you think the Fund will make a lasting difference to workers’ rights and help promote decent work?
I am convinced that the project results and the awareness they create will lead to changes in the long run. I would also emphasise that these are long and often complex processes that are involved and that it takes time to achieve lasting and sustainable changes. It is about changes in culture, identities and traditions and everyone must find their own path based on their own background. LO Norway does not have all the answers, but we have experience of what has worked well for us.
Is there a particular project where LO’s involvement made a real difference?
I wouldn’t single out a particular project. Everyone has their own approaches and the Norwegian experience differs depending on the topic. Sometimes we find out that the systems are very different during implementation – and new and unforeseen angles can emerge that contribute positively. For example, a Bulgarian-Norwegian cooperation project involved a study visit where we decided to make a presentation on how our labour courts system works.
This had a very positive spin-off as the partners saw something that they could benefit from in a very real way. We are now working together to see where the best of Norwegian and Bulgarian practice may be developed.
The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) is the largest and most influential workers’ organisation in Norway. LO has a strong position in Norwegian society and has played an influential role in securing workers’ rights for more than 100 years.