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Management and monitoring of structural programmes

A. The programmes: types and financing plans

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Structural Fund expenditure is programmed in three types of document. The term "programme" generally relates to Single Programming Documents (SPDs) and Operational Programmes (OPs) drawn up by the national and regional authorities and approved by the Commission. An OP can, however, be considered only in connection with a Community Support Framework (CSF). Here, briefly, are the two programming systems:

  • The CSFs and OPs generally relate to a country, or a group of regions within a country, which is eligible under Objective 1. The CSFs describe the social and economic context of the country or regions covered by the Structural Funds, set out development priorities and targets to be attained, and provide for financial management, monitoring, evaluation and control systems. The OPs list the various priorities of a CSF for a particular region or a particular development sector (transport, training, business support, etc.).
  • The SPDs feature aspects of both a CSF and an OP. In most cases they involve assistance cofinanced by the Structural Funds amounting to less than a billion euro in an Objective 1 region, assistance in Objective 2 regions or national assistance under Objective 3 and in the fisheries sector.

The Structural Funds only supplement national or regional financing. This means that no programmes are ever totally covered by the European budget, and that there is always national cofinancing from either the public or the private sector.

Each programme is made up of priority themes and measures, although the latter are not described in detail. Taken together, these elements form the development strategy to be implemented throughout the life of the programme. To be eligible for financing under a programme, projects must fit within this strategy.

Depending on their specific nature, the four Structural Funds each finance certain types of projects (see "Operations financed by the Structural Funds"):

  • The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) primarily supports productive investment, infrastructure and SME development.
  • The Guidance Section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF-Guidance section) supports measures for the adjustment of agricultural structures and rural development.
  • The European Social Fund (ESF) supports measures to promote employment (education systems, vocational training and recruitment aids).
  • The Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) supports measures for the adjustment of structures in this sector, and the "accompanying measures" of the common fisheries policy.

Account also needs to be taken of the fact that it may not be possible for all of the expenditure on a project to be financed by the Structural Funds. In principle, the national regulations relevant to government support apply to the Structural Funds, with the exception of certain specific cases provided for by a special regulation(1). Some types of scheme are simply not eligible for Community financing. In addition, any expenditure carried out before the date when the Commission receives the request for support cannot benefit from Community assistance. The same applies for expenditure occurring after the final date for eligibility set out in the Funds’ decision to participate.

1. See the Commission Regulation on the eligibility of expenditure: (EC) No 1685/2000, OJ L 193, 29.07.2000.

Structural Funds 2000-2006

Priority objectives (94% of the budget) :

Objective 1 : development and structural adjustment of regions whose development is lagging behind.

Objective 2 : economic and social conversion of areas facing structural difficulties

Objective 3 : adaptation and modernisation of policies and systems of education, training and employment.

Fisheries : adaptation of fishery structures


Community initiatives (5.35% of the budget) :

interreg III : Crossborder, transnational and interregional cooperation

urban II : Regeneration of urban areas in crisis

LEADER+ : Rural development through innovative local projects

EQUAL : Combating discrimination and inequalities in connection with the labour market.


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