Norway Grants programme opens the door for extensive international cooperation
On 4th and 5th October, an international networking conference Green HUB took place, organized by the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic as an intermediary of the CZ-Environment programme, which is financed by the Norwegian Funds. The event was attended by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway and representatives of donor and recipient countries involved in the EEA and Norway Grants mechanism.
Representatives of the EEA and Norway Grants „green“ programme operators from a total of nine countries accepted the invitation to the conference, which took place on 4th and 5th October 2023 in Prague and Český Krumlov. Poland, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Romania, the whole of the Baltics… countries from all over Europe came to share their knowledge. In addition, the event was attended by staff from the Brussels Office of the Financial Mechanisms, the donor partner Norwegian Environment Agency and the Icelandic National Energy Authority. This was the first time that such a diverse group of participants had met. The main purpose of the conference was to establish contacts and present examples of good practice with a view to establishing future cooperation.
„We chose Český Krumlov because of its strategic location for the presentation of our supported projects in South Bohemia,“ explains Ivo Marcin, Director of the Department of Fund Strategy and International Cooperation, State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic.
On the first day of the conference, the guests were presented directly in the field with a project from the Rago call, prepared by the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague in cooperation with the Norwegian partner The Norwegian Institute for Water Research on Vrbenské rybníky. This is an innovative project aimed at the development and production of artificial floating islands, which are then placed on ponds not only in South Bohemia. These islands provide safe nesting sites for birds, while the birds themselves and their eggs are protected from predators and other threats.
The second day of the Green HUB conference opened with a keynote address by the Norwegian Ambassador, His Excellency Victor Conrad Rønneberg. He and the other speakers reminded us of the challenges caused by global climate change that we all face in Europe and how sharing experiences, both positive and negative, plays an important role in addressing them. The whole morning was therefore filled with interesting presentations, of which the contribution of Ragnar Ásmundsson from the National Energy Authority of Iceland was very interesting. He focused on the transition to renewable energy sources and in particular their financing in the Icelandic context.
The morning programme included a presentation of the „Discover and Protect“ project supported by the Reine call. Dr. Jiří Koleček from the Faculty of Fisheries and Water Conservation of the University of South Bohemia emphasized the importance of working with the general public. The project, which was carried out together with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, is aimed at communicating the issue of protecting aquatic ecosystems. Its essence is to show, using examples that people know well, what aquatic species specifically need to thrive, how they are threatened by human activity, how to prevent this threat and what each of us can do.
The conference was highlighted by roundtables on four themes (environment and circular economy, energy efficiency and renewables, climate change and adaptation, and programme administration). The main objective of this activity was to identify areas where countries can inspire others, where they need advice, and where future cooperation in the field of climate, sustainability and energy between the countries participating in the EEA and Norway Grants mechanism could be developed. Finally, the participants summarised the highlights of each topic, in particular the contributions of each country and what they imply for further cooperation. A more detailed summary could be a useful input for the Financial Mechanisms Office when setting up the next programming period.
The organising representatives of the Czech CZ-Environment programme believe that this networking conference was a very beneficial start for future deeper cooperation between the countries benefiting from EEA and Norway Grants in the field of environmental protection and energy. At the same time, the representatives of the SEF CR hope that the initiative will be taken up by other countries and that further meetings will follow, which will further deepen contacts and cooperation between the countries. The organisers are currently preparing a bulletin which will contain more detailed information and, above all, a summary of the most important outcomes, including conclusions from the roundtables.