ESI Funds Open Data Platform
Frequently Asked Questions
1.1 What are the European Structural and Investments Funds (ESI Funds)?
The ESI Funds are a family of five EU funding instruments that provide structural and investment financing across the EU. The budget provides EUR 454 Billion in the period 2014-2020.
While the five funds address different stakeholders and sectors they share two important commonalities
- The funds are dedicated to support growth and job creation and are aligned with the Europe 2020 strategy and the Commission priority for Jobs, Growths and Investment;
- All 5 funds are delivered under shared management, that is managed by the Commission in partnership with National and regional public authorities in the Member States.
For more information about the ESI Funds and the individual funds :
- European Structural and Investments Funds (legal acts)
- Cohesion Fund
- European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development - EAFRD
- European Maritime & Fisheries Fund - EMFF
- European Regional Development Fund - ERDF
- European Social Fund - ESF
This platform also covers the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) which is a specific funding resource under the ESF Regulation dedicated to fighting youth unemployment.
1.2 What themes are financed by the ESI Funds?
European Structural and Investment Funds, support 11 key themes, also known as "thematic objectives":
- Strengthening research, technological development and innovation
- Enhancing access to, and use and quality of information and communication technologies (ICT)
- Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors
- Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management
- Preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency
- Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures
- Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility
- Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination
- Investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning
- Enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration
The ESF Funds contribute to these high level themes in different ways and in different intensities. Also the intensity of support to each theme differs from country to country in line with differences in their needs and priorities.
A share of financing is also set aside for technical assistance (to run, monitor, control and evaluate the programmes), specific allocations to Outermost regions and “discontinued measures” from 2007-2013 under the EAFRD.
1.3 Where does the data come from? Who generates it?
The data included in the platform comes for the 533 national, regional or interregional programmes adopted under the ESI Funds by the Commission following discussions with the relevant national and regional authorities.
The National and regional public authorities proposed the financial allocations and the indicators for achievements which were then discussed and agreed with the Commission.
The data is exchanged by the national and regional authorities and the Commission through a common IT platform – SFC2014.
In July 2016 the Instrument of Pre Accession - Cross Border Cooperation (IPA-CBC) programmes were included in the finances dataset and the 10 additional programmes concerned are listed under the relevant EU Member States.
1.4 Which funding periods are covered on the platform?
The platform is mainly focussed on the 2014-2020 funding period and provides common information covering all five ESI funds as well as the Youth Employment Initiative.
It also provides links to some material of the Cohesion Policy funds 2007-2013 (Cohesion Fund, ERDF, and ESF).
For ERDF / Cohesion Fund other datasets also covering earlier programme periods are available on this "Data for Research" page.
1.5 Can I access the underlying data?
Yes. The data that is behind the ESI Funds visualisations can be accessed and downloaded from the platform. Use the "Explore and Share this Data" function to access it, or go to the “Catalogue” on the home page for a full list of datasets and a search engine.
1.6 How can I find out more about the different data management tools available on the platform?
The ESI Funds Open Data Platform was developed with open data services provider Socrata. Socrata provides open data services and cloud-based data storage to a wide range of public authorities.
We recommend following the on line introductory tutorial. More information and tutorials about the Open Data platform are also available online.
b. ESIF Finances
2.1 What is the scope of the information on finances?
- Data on finances planned: This financial information is set out in the programme documents adopted by the Commission and made available in a common format across all funds. The data is cumulative and comes from the financial tables of each national or regional programme. It includes information on EU and National financing. We have made available information on the financial allocation by "Thematic Objective".
- Data on finances implemented: This data presents cumulative information from the programmes on their progress 1) deciding on the selected projects to deliver the objectives of the programmes and 2) on the actual investment costs declared by the projects to the programmes.
The finances implemented are reported in total cost (not split EU/National). The finances implemented are reported by “priority axis”, i.e. the main investment pillars or envelopes in the programmes. A full ventilation by themes (thematic objective) is not available (See Q+A #9 below).
2.2 Will you provide information on EU payments to the programmes by fund?
Yes. This is being prepared and will be made available by mid-2017.
2.3 Where can I find more detailed information on the actions financed?
The eleven main "Thematic Objectives" represent the high level objectives for the ESI Funds that contribute to the EU objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and around which the programmes frame their investment plans. Depending on the ESI Fund there are more detailed lists of objectives and spending areas.
For the ERDF/Cohesion Fund and ESF/YEI the most detailed level on the planned investments are available from the information in the categorisation system. The 2014-2020 categorisation data is available on the "Data for Researchers page".
2.4 Where can I find data on the EU amounts dedicated to addressing climate change (climate tracking)?
2.5 Where can I find information on the planned use of Financial Instruments?
2.6 Where can information on the beneficiaries of EU funding be found? What sort of details are available on the beneficiaries of EU funding?
In the context of "shared" management it is the Member States that select and monitoring the millions of projects supported. They must also publish lists of beneficiaries.
The Commission webpages listed below provide direct links to national lists of the beneficiaries:
- European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/atlas/beneficiaries/
- European Social Fund: http://ec.europa.eu/esf/main.jsp?catId=31
- European Agricultural and Rural Development Fund: https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/cap-funding/beneficiaries/shared_en
- European Maritime and Fisheries Fund: https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/contracts_and_funding/the_european_transparency_initiative_en
The linked websites are managed by the respective Member State under their sole responsibility. The information provided is subject to regular updates.
Under the rules governing the implementation of the funds 2014-2020 the Member States must publish the name of the beneficiary, the activity funded and the amount of public funding allocated. The specific requirements by fund are linked on the website above. For instance for the Cohesion Policy funds (ERDF/ESF/Cohesion Fund) see Article 115 and Annex XII of EU No 1303/2013 - LINK - for the full list of details to be provided.
2.7 Can I drill the data down at Regional level?
Specific programme pages were published in July 2016. These pages provide finances and achievement details by theme for each programme. The data is available through the programme's country page.
2.8 What does project selection mean?
In order to deliver the planned objectives, the programmes select projects (operations) in line with the each programme's strategy.
When programmes report financial and indicator data on "projects selected" this implies the following :
- The relevant selection procedures have been applied by the programme authority;
- A decision has been taken to support the specific project;
- The programme and the project promoter have agreed on the funding and the other details such as indicator forecasts, monitoring arrangement, etc.
2.9 Why is there no data on “finances implemented” on the Thematic Pages?
The reporting of financial data by Member States for the funds ERDF, CF and ESF does not provide a complete breakdown by theme (thematic objective). The format of the information reported provides financial data by "priority axis".
A large fraction of priority axis cover multiple themes (i.e. such as priority axes investing in integrated urban development strategies).
In the data on “finances implemented" the planned investment and the total cost of selected projects can only be partially broken down by theme (unlike the "Finances planned" presented on the theme pages).
The available thematic data is present in the original dataset in the catalogue and the share of planned and project selected amounts found under the heading "Multiple Thematic Objectives" can be identified.
c. ESI Funds Achievements – Indicators
3.1 What do you mean by achievements?
The 'Achievements' sections present in indicator tiles information on the common indicators for the different funds.
The five ESI Funds have separate sets of common indicators, measuring the direct outputs or effects of the investments planned across programmes and countries. The indicators are listed in the Fund regulations and defined in specific guidance documents. The funds have separate sets of indicators because they are mainly focused on different policy fields, different stakeholders or specific different sectors.
The indicator tiles present 1) the targets set in the adopted programmes and information reported annually by the programmes on implementation – 2) the indicator forecasts linked to decided selected projects and 3) the implemented values.
With the first data reported on implementation received in 2016 the dataset on achievements now provides the following information on each indicator:
- Planned: achievements (targets)
- Decided: (forecasts for selected projects)
- Implemented values implemented by the projects
3.2 What do the indicators measure?
More than 100 common indicators have been selected for use on the platform. These indicators represent common activities within each fund, across many Member States. They do not however capture all activities or outputs in all cases. For the ERDF for example programme specific (non-common) indicators are also widely used to capture direct outputs.
Fund specific common indicators fall into two groups:
- Common output indicators, measuring the direct output of the investments projects (specific lists exist for all funds);
- Common result indicators, measuring a benefit or result that happens after the project has been completed (these are defined in particular for EAFRD, ESF/YEI, EMFF).
The definitions for all these indicators are provided in the Fund specific guidance below:
3.3 How were the indicators defined?
The indicators were developed based on previous experience and on discussions with national and international experts over several years.
For example, in the case of the ERDF/Cohesion Fund a discussion was launched in 2011 with an international panel of experts to discuss how the effects and impacts of ERDF/Cohesion Fund programmes could be better monitored and evaluated. This was followed up with discussions of the Commission proposals with the Member States.
3.4 Why are there no common indicators across the funds?
The 5 funds have specific lists of indicators because, by and large, they are focused on different policy fields, they have different policy objectives, with different stakeholders or they focus on specific sectors.
The practice of fund specific common indicators has developed over time and has been improved for the 2014-2020 programmes.
3.5 Can I compare the investments and achievement figures between Member States?
There is insufficient information available to determine "unit costs" across so many different indicators and national contexts.
Even at the most detailed level at which the data is available it is not possible to draw direct comparisons or conclusions about the investment levels and the expected achievements (output targets). There are many reasons for this:
- Some indicators capture measurements that cover a wide variety of situations. Example: The firms supported can be large enterprises or micro enterprises; the financial support may be EUR 1 million or EUR 1 000.
- The form and intensity of support can vary widely depending on the region or country. In some countries grant financing may be available at 80% of costs while in others only loan financing is offered depending on other financing possibilities.
- In relation to infrastructure: the design and construction standards and the climatic conditions can vary strongly with an impact on the costs of construction.
- The costs of services and materials that make up the projects may vary across the EU.
- The national or regional economic environment in which the results are pursued can differ largely. Example: actions to improve employment rates are pursued in very different labour market conditions.
- Qualitative outcomes related to the same result can vary among programmes. Example: the sustainability of employment varies across economies.
- Some planned achievements capture the totality of the finances in a specific programme or priority, some others do not. In particular, in ESF programmes common indicators were used to a very limited extent to express planned achievements; programme specific indicators were more widely used.
3.6 Where can I find further information on the period 2007-2013 and earlier programme periods?
A list of datasets related to the 2007-2013 period is available in the Catalogue
In relation to ERDF and Cohesion Fund you can find various dataset on the "Data for Researchers" page.
For the ESF/YEI: Data and figures
d. Future developments
4.1 Do you have plans to further develop the site?
Yes. The Commission plans to progressively develop the site.
After the initial launch in December 2015 (based on November 2015 data) the site was adapted as follows:
- The finances planned dataset was updated to include the IPA-CBC programmes and to exclusively reflect adopted programmes as at June 2016 (in the November 2015 dataset some programmes were still in draft form);
- The visualisation for all 533 ESI Fund programmes and 10 IPA-CBC programmes of finances and achievement targets (common indicators) when available were opened and are available from the lists provided on each "country page";
- New visualisations of the finances dataset were added: filtered visualisations of (1) the finances allocated by EU/national/total finance and (2) on the theme page a filter to visualise absolute amounts or relative shares;
- For the EMFF, programme targets for 11 of the 18 common indicators were made available when used by the national programmes.
- The dataset on "finances planned" was updated to reflect adopted programmes as at November 2016.
- A new dataset was added on "finances implemented" showing financial data reported by the programmes on the total cost of decided allocations to selected projects along with the spending (eligible expenditure) declared by projects to the programme managers.
- Visualisations were added of the financial data on project selection and expenditure on the ground based on the data reported by the programmes (by early November 2016).
The achievements data set was extended to include the first information on progress towards the planned targets, forecasts linked to decided selected projects and actually implemented values).