The Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund are intended to narrow the gaps in economic and social development among the regions and Member States of the European Union. Representing more than one third of EU’s budget, the Funds constitute substantial financial assistance that shapes the long-term development of the recipient countries and regions.
What can the funds do to tackle poverty and exclusion?
Since the creation of the European Social Fund in 1957, structural funds have made a significant contribution to tackling social exclusion. This was primarily ensured through the European Social Fund, which allowed tackling exclusion through measures likely to bring people back into work, but also allowing for a wider integration and empowerment of excluded groups. However, the European Social Fund and also significantly the European Regional Development Fund’s contribution went beyond this, by providing support for capacity building for social NGOs, social economy initiatives and inclusive entrepreneurship approaches, but also infrastructures linked to social inclusion.
A new structure for 2007-2013
For the period 2007-2013, cohesion policy will benefit from 35.7% of the total EU budget (347.41 billion euros), and its general framework has undergone major. Aiming at a more strategic approach, and a more decentralised management, the new Cohesion Policy has been concentrated on three main objectives, each targeting specific types of regions and Member States:
- convergence (81.54% of funds, mostly targeted at regions with a per capita GDP at less than 75 % of the Community average);
- regional competitiveness and employment (15.95%);
- European territorial cooperation (2.52%).
These objectives are to be met mostly through three funds: European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund (Member States whose GNI is lower than 90% of the EU average). For the first time, strong coherence between cohesion policy, the Lisbon and Gothenburg strategy is also required: according to the “earmarking” process, at least 60% of the funds (in convergence regions, 75% for competitiveness regions) should be targeted towards Lisbon related fields supporting a “growth and jobs” approach.
- Manual on the Management of the EU Structural Funds, a useful tool for NGOs to best influence the management of SF
- Inforegio website, European Commission’s website on Cohesion Policy
- European Social Fund’s website