Recently, however, many in Norway have argued that the country should reassess its support due to the recent political developments in the East European country, which many Norwegians find disturbing. Another issue is the insufficient transparency around how the Norwegian help is being spent.
The Norwegian daily Dagbladet recently drew attention to a number of cases where Norwegian money was clearly embezzled, including the case of Piotr Czubinski, who was sentenced to three years in prison for, among other things, appropriating Norwegian EEA money. In the capacity of a Polish-Ukrainian center, established near the Ukrainian border with Norwegian money, Czubinski reportedly extorted 50 percent of the employees' salary. Even some of the hired lecturers had to cede a percentage of their fee to the director. The center, which never reached its potential despite lofty promises, has since been used for after-school activities.
"It is a very intricate system. It's called nepotism and is found throughout Poland and is deeply rooted in the Polish community," choreographer and dancer Jacek Luminski told Dagbladet, warning Norwegians against being naïve.
"I did not take the money. It was someone else who did, but they did not believe me," Luminski told Dagbladet.
According to Dagbladet, the Norwegian authorities have been trying to hush similar stories of embezzlement. Dagbladet also contacted the Financial Mechanism Office (FMO), which is responsible for EEA funds and reports to donors in Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, yet was refused any details under the pretext that the information could "harm commercial interests or persons involved."
Labor Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre said a reassessment of the Norwegian aid scheme could land on the agenda if his party wins the upcoming election this fall.
"Norway simply cannot have large funds transferred to receiving countries on autopilot. We cannot sustain such aid, not least in Europe," Jonas Gahr Støre told the Norwegian economic daily Dagens Næringsliv. "We must be very clear in conveying this to Polish leaders," he added.
Another problem is that Poland seeks political control over Norway's aid directed at enouraging civil society, which Oslo has steadfastly refused. Norway's requirement is that the funds shall be managed by an operator independent of the authorities, selected through an open tender.