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ESF financial execution

Overview of actual expenditure of the ESF, per country

At the start of the programming period (ex: 2007-2013), each country is entitled a share of the ESF total envelope, this is the “decided” ESF allocation. Then the country decides to “allocate” the funds to programmes and measures and gradually contracts the funds mainly through grants.

During that process the Commission provides 3 categories of payments to countries:

  • advances are provided during the first three years (e.g. 2007-2009) of the programming period and range from 7.5% to 13.0% of the ESF national envelopes, depending on the country. Advances represent the cash provided to countries to co-fund the start of programmes at the beginning of the programming period;
  • interim payments: once final beneficiaries (project promoters) of programmes utilise the funds for a project and submit the related expenditure declarations to the national ESF managing authority, statements of expenditure from various operational programmes are collected and submitted to the Commission which then pays the corresponding ESF co-financing to the country*;
  • payment of the final balance which takes place after the end of the programming period.
ESF 2007-2013 interim payments
ESF 2007-2013 advances + interim payments
ESF 2007-2013 interim payments


* It is important to note that interim payments are not real-time or pertinent indicators for evaluating how the implementation of operational programmes is progressing on the ground. Several steps are undertaken to control the eligibility and certify the expenditure before payments request are sent to the Commission. This process automatically results in a delay between implementation in the field, e.g. the start of a project by a beneficiary, and financial execution, corresponding to the registration of the claim request by the Commission. Although the Commission registers and reports the payments to Member States, this process is independent from the gradual payments made to project beneficiaries by the managing authorities, which are not tracked in real-time at European level.