3 Mar 2014

As we all know this year is the start of the new programming period inside the EU, more precisely the 2014-2020 period. This programming period is dominated by the Europe 2020 Strategy, which sets out and promotes a more Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth across the EU and its partners, and was adopted as the main strategy for future development. It is no wonder than that the European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) will be regulated for the 2014-2020 period based on this strategy and its principles.

Europe 2020

Europe 2020 is a 10 year strategy, that could be said to have come as a response of the EU to the economic and social difficulties that risen to the surface between 2000 and 2010. But at the same time it is perceived as a new model for addressing and creating a new type of growth, a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. You can read more on the Europe 2020 Strategy, its principles, targets and flagship initiatives here, on the European Commission's website.

2014-2020 European Structural & Investment Funds

After long and difficult negotiations the European Parliament and the Council agreed upon the Regulations on December 17th, 2013. The full texts of these regulations can be consulted on EUR-Lex. The Regulations were published in the Official Journal L 347, on 20th December 2013.

The Regulations include:

·         Common provisions regulation (CPR): Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013
·         ERDF Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013
·         ESF Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1304/2013
·         ETC Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013
·         EGTC Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013
·         Cohesion Fund Regulation: Council Regulation (EU) No 1300/2013
·         EAFRD Regulation: Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013

Full descriptions with links, as well as links to additional documents can be found on DG Regio's page dedicated to the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 legislation.

In an overall perspective these regulations cover the listing of the thematic objectives set out in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy, the guidelines and content guides for the Agreement Partnerships, the operational programmes, and the specificities of each fund and priorities.

Changes of the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 

The European Commission promoted the 2014-2020 policy as an innovation. Multiple changes were promoted and adopted, and their listing would be difficult and tedious. For purposes of presentation the EC put together an infographic that emphasizes the main changes and the new direction the Policy has taken for this programming period.

The full presentation of these changes would be a difficult task in the context of this blog post. However, there are four main aspects that deserve mentioning.

3 (new) types of regions

The regions have been redefined and their statute in terms of eligibility and allocation has been thus simplified. We now have 3 types of regions:

·         less developed regions,  GDP/head < 75 % of EU-27 average
·         transition regions, GDP/head between 75 % & 90 % of EU-27 average
·         more developed regions, GDP/head >= 90 % of EU-27 average

Focus through thematic objectives

All national programming documents are to choose their objectives and develop priorities based on a limited list of thematic objectives, which come in support of the Europe 2020 Strategy's objectives and targets:

  1. strengthening research, technological development and innovation;
  2. enhancing access to, and use and quality of, ICT;
  3. enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, of the agricultural sector (for the EAFRD) and of the fishery and aquaculture sector (for the EMFF);
  4. supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors;
  5. promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management;
  6. preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency;
  7. promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures;
  8. promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility;
  9. promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination;
  10. investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning;
  11. enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration.


The new Cohesion Policy prides itself to be simplified in order to better address the needs through efficient implementation and targeting.

Emphasizing the role of local communities & territorial cooperation

Cooperation has always been an important part of Cohesion Policy, but new approaches towards multi-level governance and its territorial implications pushed the further development of old and new instruments (i.e. Integrated Territorial Investments – ITI, Community-led Local Development – CLLD) aimed at local communities and administrations, emphasizing their role in the implementation of ESIF projects and Europe 2020 Strategy.

Eligibility & Allocation

The regulations mentioned above also cover the eligibility and allocations aspects of the ESIF, according to the new categorization of the NUTS2 regions. For more details you can consult the maps below, and the table regarding the funding allocation per country, made available on the DG Regio's page regarding eligibility and allocation under the 2014-2020 Cohesion Policy.

2014-2020 Structural Funds (ERDF and ESF) eligibility
Source: EC / DG Regio,  http://bit.ly/1fBOUoT
2014-2020 Cohesion Fund eligibility
Source: EC / DG Regio,  http://bit.ly/1fBOUoT