In five chapters, this page provides an introduction into the history of EU Cohesion and Regional Policy

1957 - 1988        1989 - 1993        1994 - 1999        2000 - 2006        2007 - 2013

A more comprehensive publication, can be found in here and a power-point presentation is available here.

1989-1993: From projects to programmes

“Europe sees its future as striking a balance between competition and cooperation, collectively trying to steer the destiny of the men and women who live in it. Is this easily done? No. Market forces are powerful. If we left things to their own devices, industry would be concentrated in the north and leisure pursuits in the south. But these market forces, powerful though they may seem, do not always pull in the same direction. Man’s endeavour and political aspiration is to try to develop a balanced territory.”

Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission 1985-1995

Although the origins of Community policies addressing regional imbalances can be traced back to the Treaty of Rome, it was not until 1975 that the European Regional Development Fund was created. In its early years, operations remained purely national, financing predetermined projects in the Member States with little European or subnational influence. An annual system of selecting and refinancing existing projects was applied in a similar way by other Community funds with territorial impact such as the European Social Fund and the European Agriculture Guidance and Guarantee Fund.  Hence, at the beginning of the 1980s “efficiency” of Community instruments became an issue and their integration was sought for in a number of pilot programmes.  In 1986 key events brought with them the impetus for a more genuine ‘European’ Cohesion Policy, most notably the Single European Act, the accession of Greece, Spain and Portugal and the adoption of the single market programme. In March 1988, the European Council in Brussels decided to allocate ECU 64 billion to the Structural Funds which represented a doubling of annual resources over the period 1989-93. On 24 June 1988, the Council adopted the first regulation integrating the Structural Funds under the umbrella of Cohesion Policy. This landmark reform introduced key principles such as focussing on the poorest and most backward regions, multi-annual programming, strategic orientation of investments and the involvement of regional and local partners.

List to Bruce Millian, Commissioner for Regional Policy, on the reform of the Structural Funds (1993, in English)