Cohesion Policy Achievements 2010-2014

Johannes Hahn summed up the EU Cohesion Policy achievements during his term in the office. The main achievements are as follows: 

Press Release:

  1. A new approach to Cohesion Policy and a change of mindset: a new emphasis on results, the introduction of pre-conditions for funding and a strong strategic focus have shifted the perception of Cohesion Policy from subsidy to investment based – with the aim of improving the quality of projects.

  1. The reform: The transformation of Cohesion Policy, through a deep and wide ranging reform, to become a strategic investment tool which can help deliver Europe 2020 goals. By targeting resources at key growth sectors such as innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and the low-carbon economy, the new policy shifts the focus away from infrastructure to supporting businesses and the real economy. For instance, with separate obligations to invest on energy efficiency and renewables, around €38 billion will support the shift to a low-carbon economy.

  1. Cohesion Policy cushioned Europe's regions and cities from the worst effects of the crisis: by supporting public investment and deploying EU investments flexibly, for example through the reprogramming of funds. Raised co-financing helped countries like Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Romania. At a time of sustained fiscal consolidation EU Cohesion Policy has become of critical importance. Without Cohesion Policy, much needed public investment in the less developed Member States would have collapsed by an additional 45% during the crisis.

  1. The budget for EU Cohesion Policy was defended – and maintained: In tough budget negotiations for the EU's seven-year spending plan, the "multiannual financial framework", the case for investing in all EU regions, in all Member States was won. Cohesion Policy accounts for more than one-third of the 2014-20 budget and is the biggest investment policy at EU level supporting the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy.

  1. A sharper focus on results and accountability and better coordination between different EU funds: built into the reform is an obligation for clear, transparent, and measurable aims to be fixed by countries and regions at the outset. Progress should be measured and published, with regular monitoring and debate on how financial resources are used. New common rules will mean the five European Structural and Investment Funds work better and in a coherent manner.

  1. A clearer link between Cohesion Policy and budgetary discipline: by aligning the policy with rules of the European Semester and country-specific recommendations, the effectiveness of the investments is not undermined by unsound fiscal or economic policies. In addition, there has been more support to administrations for managing EU Funded programmes in Member States: recognising the key role of institutions and administrations in the implementation of Cohesion Policy investment, more than €4 billion will support capacity building and modernisation of public administrations.

  1. Expanding the use of financial instruments: Making more of the valuable leverage effect of EU investments at a time when SMEs' source of finance has been drying up. The new Cohesion Policy sees a shift from a grant-based culture to a loan-based one. This should improve project quality and discourage subsidy dependence. Guarantees and equity/venture capital will be supported by EU funds through common rules, a broadening of the scope of their use and providing incentives (e.g. higher co-financing rates). Inspired by EU Cohesion Policy, from 2014-2020, all European Structural and Investment Funds will devote significant resources to investments through financial instruments.

  1. Championing Europe's cities as well as its regions: An Urban Agenda is now in the making, in response to the calls for more involvement of cities in EU policymaking. On top of this, the urban dimension of the policy has been enhanced – for example with more to be spent on integrated projects in cities.

  1. Co-operation across borders and between regions strengthened: through the macro-regional strategies and European Territorial Cooperation programmes, countries and regions are tackling common challenges together. 23 EU Member States and several non-EU countries have engaged in macro-regional and sea-basin strategies (in the Baltic Sea region, the Danube region, and the Atlantic Ocean area, and soon in both the new strategies for the Adriatic and Ionian region and the Alpine region).

  1. Reform of the Solidarity Fund and help for regions hit by disaster: In this mandate, the EU Solidarity Fund has mobilised around €1,5 billion to help rebuilding and recovery after natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and forest fires. The new regulation streamlines and simplifies it to respond more quickly and to allow advances to cover the most urgent needs right after a disaster.

Source: European Commission Press Release Memo/14/561