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.

2000-2006: Making enlargement a success

“As long as the European Union has aspirations, it must have a cohesion policy to help it to fulfil them. One aspiration is that of shared progress in a reunified Europe. The new horizon is to give an enlarged Europe the means to achieve dynamic growth and high employment on a sustainable basis. And the way to achieve this has already been mapped out: we must pursue the objectives laid down unanimously in the Lisbon and Gothenburg agendas. In the end, it is our regions, areas, towns and cities on the ground which make the investments, implement national and Community policies and apply EU law. We must not leave them on the sidelines as spectators but make them our partners in facing this challenge of sustainable growth.”

Michel Barnier, Commissioner for Regional Policy 1999-2004


A move towards simplification of Cohesion Policy’s design and procedures in parallel with preparation for enlargement, these were the two major themes of the period 2000-2006. ‘Agenda 2000’ had been in preparation since the second half of 1990s and it paved the way for the biggest ever enlargement of the EU, with 10 new Member States joining in May 2004. This historic enlargement brought a 20% increase in the EU’s population, but only a 5% increase in Union’s GDP. With enlargement came increased disparities in income and employment as the average GDP per head in these new member countries was under half the EU average and only 56% of their population were in active employment, compared to 64% in the EU-15. The new Member States’ territory almost completely fell under Objective 1, eligible for the highest possible level of support from the  Structural and Cohesion Funds. However, work began before enlargement including making pre-accession instruments available to help the then candidate countries prepare for Cohesion Policy. Following a decision taken by the European Council of Berlin in March 1999, the 2000-06 budget for Cohesion Policy totalled €213 billion for the fifteen Member States. An additional allocation of €22 billion was provided for the new Member States for the period 2004-06. The ‘Lisbon Strategy’ was agreed by the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000, with its focus  on growth, employment and innovation it became more and more the leitmotiv of many EU policiesand was the momentum for a paradigm shift in Cohesion Policy.