EU cohesion policy (regional policy)

European Union
European Commission, EU Member States, regional authorites
Key objectives of the measure:

The regional policy of the European Union (also known as cohesion policy) has the stated aim of improving the economic well-being of regions in the EU and avoiding regional disparities.


Regional policy targets all regions and cities in the European Union in order to support job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development, and improve citizens’ quality of life.

Scope of the measure:
Regional, National, International
Nature of the measure:
Main feature of the measure:

European Structural and Investment Funds consist of:

- European Regional and Development Fund (ERDF)

- European Social Fund (ESF)

- Cohesion Fund (CF)

- European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)

- European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)


The cohesion policy framework is established for a period of 7 years. The current period covers the years 2014-2020. The financial period of 2007-2013 has been described in the previous report.


Implementation of the policy follows these stages:

- The budget and rules are jointly decided by the European Council and the European Parliament on the basis of a proposal from the Commission.

- The principles and priorities of cohesion policy are distilled through a process of consultation between the Commission and EU countries. Each Member State produces a draft Partnership Agreement, which outlines the country's strategy and proposes a list of programmes. Member States also present draft operational programmes (OP) which cover entire Member States and/or regions. There are also cooperation programmes involving more than one country.

- The Commission negotiates with national authorities on the final content of Partnership Agreements, as well as each programme. The programmes present the priorities of the area concerned. Workers, employers and civil society bodies can all participate in the programming and management of the OPs.

- The programmes are implemented by the Member States and their regions. This means selecting, monitoring and evaluating hundreds of thousands of projects. This work is organised by 'managing authorities' in each country and/or region.

- The Commission commits the funds (to allow the countries to start spending on their programmes).

- The Commission pays the certified expenditure to each country.

- The Commission monitors each programme, alongside the country concerned.

- Both the Commission and the member countries submit reports throughout the programming period.

Results expected through the implementation of the measure:

Regional policy has strong impacts in many fields. Its investments help to deliver many EU policy objectives and complement EU policies such as those dealing with employment, energy, the environment, the single market, research and innovation, education and culture.  For details on culture spending see the section on financial resources allocated.


Regional Policy provides the necessary investment framework to meet the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the European Union.


The five targets for the EU in 2020 are:

- Employment: 75%of the 20-64 year-olds to be employed

- R&D: 3% of the EU's GDP to be invested in R&D

- Climate change and energy sustainability:

     - Greenhouse gas emissions 20%

      - 20% of energy from renewables

      - 20 % increase of energy efficiency

- Education:

     - Reducing the rates of early school leavers below 10%

     - At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion

 - Fighting poverty and social exclusion: At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion

Financial resources allocated to implement the measure:

The Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 represents 351.8 billion euros of the EU budget.  The way this is spent is based on a system of shared responsibility between the European Commission and national authorities. The main service responsible for Structural Funds within the Commission is the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO).


Funding for culture in the Operational Programmes under EU Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 can be estimated at over 9 billion euros.  These funds aim to promote more balanced and sustainable territorial development of EU regions via hundreds of thousands of projects all across Europe.


Within ERDF, €5.269 billion is earmarked to go directly to culture, out of which €4.770 billion to cultural heritage.  €1.006 billion of ERDF funds are devoted to "access to public sector information (including open data e-culture, digital libraries, e-content and e-tourism") which will also be used by cultural operators and organisations.


It is estimated that a further 3 billion euros (approximately) will finance culture-related projects from other funds within the structural funds (ESF, EAFRD, EMFF).


These amounts are indicative and could be modified during the course of the present programming period, should re-allocations be necessary. In the 2007-2013 programming period, re-allocations resulted in an increase in favour of the cultural and creative sectors.

Main conclusions of the evaluation of the measure:
Indicators used to determine impact:
Please see
Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention
Cultural Domain(s)