"Lithuanians are very friendly, competent and hardworking people. You have a lot of humour and a fantastic cultural life," Ambassador Ulland tells the Lithuania Tribune, noting in particular the pleasure he had from attending the recent Song and Dance Festival.
The outgoing ambassador says he was also impressed by how Lithuania has changed over the last four years towards greater stability: governments now last longer and voters have just re-elected the incumbent president for a second term. Moreover, having successfully tackled the recent economic crisis, Lithuania has undertaken comprehensive international responsibilities.
"With regard to my work as ambassador, I was lucky to be here at a period of unusual growth in our cooperation with Lithuania," Ambassador Ulland tells the Lithuania Tribune. "Never before have we had such growth in our economic relations, so many political contacts and visits, so many common projects and cultural exchanges."
One of them, the Norway Grants programme, is of particular significance, the ambassador says.
"We have a 10-year anniversary of this programme this year and in this period Lithuania has benefited from over 150 million euro of Norwegian and EEA financing for projects in health and child care, justice and home affairs, environment, cultural heritage, funding for civil society projects and other sectors."
Ambassador Ulland says he personally visited or opened many of the over 100 projects. "I know from experience that these projects contribute to economic and social development and that in the process, many of our Norwegian and Lithuanian institutions form networks and develop our links."
"Negotiations are currently underway with the European Union for a new period of grants covering the years 2015-2019. Once the donors Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein have agreed with the EU on the size of the programme, we will be in a position to start negotiations with Lithuania and other countries about national priorities," he adds.
"At the moment there is a certain distance in the negotiating positions, but I am sure that a new program period will be agreed and that the Grants will continue here in Lithuania."
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