05.03.2012 - Article
Switzerland’s Enlargement Contribution to Latvia fully committed
The signing of the last project agreement in the frame of the Swiss Enlargement Contribution to Latvia took place in Riga on 1 February 2012. This event means that the entire amount of the CHF 60 million of Switzerland’s Enlargement Contribution earmarked for Latvia has now been fully committed.
With the CHF 2.3 million agreement for a project to improve fire safety measures in 138 public schools, the last of a total twelve projects in Latvia has been signed. The funds for this project came from the savings generated by the careful financial management of an already concluded project. In this way, the commitment phase for projects in Latvia has been terminated earlier than planned, with all of the projects currently unfolding in their implementation phase, scheduled to last until mid-2017. Following close upon Lithuania and Malta, Latvia is now the third country in which the earmarked funds have been fully committed. The Enlargement Contribution funds for all of the projects in the States that joined the EU in 2004 are obliged to be committed by 14 June 2012 at the latest.
A more detailed presentation of some of the twelve projects that are being financed within the scope of the Swiss Enlargement Contribution will be given here-below.
Cleaning up the toxic waste in the industrial port of Riga (CHF 13 million)
The industrial port of Riga, i.e., the Sarkandaugava site, has been used since 1872 for the transport and storage of petroleum products (diesel, gasoline, and in some cases kerosene). For decades, the pollution was spread into the ground, ground-water, and surface waters by pollutants. This led to a severe pollution of the environment and of the neighbouring region in which 10,000 persons live. With the Swiss Contribution, the polluted soil and water are to be cleaned up and the toxic waste disposed of. At the same time, pollution of the Daugava River, which flows into the Baltic Sea, is also to be prevented.
New Schoolbuses (CHF 13.7 million)
Thanks to the 110 schoolbuses that were distributed among 60 local governments, today some 9000 schoolchildren are benefitting from a safer means of getting to school and are hence enjoying easier access to education. The project has improved the transport system of schoolchildren in rural and disadvantaged regions of Latvia. The project was terminated already back in 2011. Thanks to the savings that were generated by the outstandingly competent project management, an additional project (measures to enhance fire safety) was able to be financed in Latvia.
Microcredit programme (CHF 7.5 million)
After the boom years when annual economic growth stood at around 10%, Latvia’s economy collapsed in 2008 under the effects of the global economic and financial crisis. The country’s economic output fell by 18% in 2009, more dramatically than in any other EU member state. The unemployment rate rose tremendously and in 2010 reached close to 20%. In order to counter these developments, Switzerland is supporting a microcredit programme, whose goal is to grant some 650 microcredits and thereby create up to 900 jobs.
Support for youth initiatives (CHF 4 million)
A growing number of young people drop out of school without any goals for further education or professional integration. The goal of the project is to provide personal and professional perspectives to young people living in peripheral and disadvantaged regions of Latvia. In accordance with the Latvian policy on youth, which was prepared as a part of the National Development Plan, the project supports infrastructure initiatives (the construction of eleven new youth centres and the renovation of six already existing), along with regional activities for youth. Thanks to the project, young people will enjoy the possibility of becoming socially active. Plans exist for the development of facilities, activities and forms of exchange specifically designed for young people.
Fund for non-governmental organizations NGOs (CHF 3.5 million)
After Latvia’s accession to the EU, foreign support for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was significantly reduced, even though the needs – especially in the social sector - still remain immense. The NGO fund aims at increasing the life quality of children, young people, and elderly persons. The fund supports NGOs working for the benefit of these groups. Partnerships with public / municipal institutions and with Swiss NGOs are to contribute to reaching the goal. A third of all projects are based on a partnership with a Swiss organization or institution. The initial results are most encouraging. Many of the projects distinguish themselves by the large amount of innovation they display and by the broad commitment of the beneficiaries.
Improved fire safety measures in public schools (CHF 2.4 million)
Most of the educational institutions in disadvantaged regions are housed in old buildings often more than twenty years old. Legislation requires fire-protection systems to be installed only if the school is being renovated. But municipalities, especially those in disadvantaged regions, often lack the resources for renovation. The overall objective of the project is to improve the safety of children in case of fire in some 138 schools in peripheral and disadvantaged regions of Latvia. In addition, knowledge about fire-protection and safety measures is to be enhanced, and the experience of Switzerland in this domain is to be capitalized.