Norway is earmarking a record amount of funds for social and environmental programs in Poland, the equivalent of EUR 578 million, after Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg signed a landmark agreement with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk in Gdansk late last week.
The money is part of Norway’s funding obligations through its European economic cooperation deal that gives Norway access to markets in the European Union (EU). Friday’s deal between Stoltenberg and Tusk will secure NOK 4.6 billion in funds for Poland through 2014.
Around half of the money, or just under NOK 2 billion, will go towards environmentally oriented programs including one aimed at reducing Poland’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Other funds will go towards boosting competence levels within the Polish judicial system and to health care programs aimed at offering easier access to health care services.
Stoltenberg faced some immediate criticism at home when the funding was announced, because of his government’s decision to close some local hospitals in cost-cutting moves in Norway. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) carried reports of nurses complaining that Norwegian funds were boosting hospitals in Poland while those in Norway were seeing funding cut. Others saw irony in the funds for emissions cuts in Poland while Norway needs to cut emissions at home as well.
Stoltenberg pointed out that Norway is obligated to offer the funding to maintain access to EU markets, and that he was glad it was going to worthy causes in countries that are close allies.
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