Can’t let Poland and Hungary gain political control over money which goes to civil society
Norway can’t accept Poland and Hungary gaining political control over money which goes to civil society in the two countries, warned the Prime Minister, Erna Solberg.
Norway is currently negotiating with Poland and Hungary about a pool of over € 1 billion of EEA funds. The total converts to approximately NOK 9.7 billion.
The negotiations with Poland have already taken place, and the process with Hungary is expected to be very difficult. The reason is that both countries are fighting to gain political control over the part of the money that will go to civil society.
Now, Prime Minister Erna Solberg has come out with a powerful warning against what she calls ‘illiberal’ powers that do not understand the need for independent, civil society.
‘We can’t allow Poland and Hungary to control the money that will be donated to civil society. We must have independent organizations that assign the funds’, she told NTB.
Cited the case in Brussels
Solberg raised the matter with the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, when she visited Brussels on Thursday.
The message was that she did not want to burn the principles. Norway’s requirement is that the funds are managed by an operator that is independent of the state authorities. This operator must be chosen through a round of open tender.
‘The civil sector is not to be controlled by the state,’ said Solberg.
European Minister, Frank Bakke-Jensen, said that the goal is to get the two agreements in place during 2017. He is not anxious that the negotiations will collapse.
‘Attending such a negotiating table is a good training ground for young democracies,’ said Bakke-Jensen to NTB news agency.
Poland’s proposal is that the funds will be managed by a new national center for the development of civil society. This center would be placed directly under the control of the prime minister’s office.
Critical voices believe that, in reality, the purpose is to thwart the funding of organizations that do not fit the government’s conservative profile.
Poland has expressed great dissatisfaction with the Batory Foundation, the organization that has managed the funds until today.
In the pressure-cooker that is Poland, the Batory Foundation has received strong criticism for favouring left-wing and liberal organizations, LHBT activists, and feminists.
Hungary, for its part, has demanded a veto over the choice of manager of the funds, reported the EUobserver newspaper.
‘The situation is very unclear. In a worst case scenario, the entire support scheme could be blocked,’ said Vera Mora of Ökotár, the organisation that has hitherto managed the funds in Hungary.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today