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Policy stages: step-by-step

Regional policy touches all parts of the EU, and at all levels - from the EU-wide and national scale, to Europe’s regions and local communities. It is part of the EU cohesion policy, the European Union's strategy to promote and support the overall harmonious development of its Member States and Regions. The policy is implemented by national and regional bodies in partnership with the European Commission.
The cohesion policy framework is established for a period of 7 years.  The current period covers the years 2014-2020.
Implementation of the policy follows these stages:

  • The budget for the policy and the rules for its use are jointly decided by the European Council and the European Parliament on the basis of a proposal from the Commission. In addition to common rules for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ERDF, ESF, CF, EAFRD and EMFF) there are also rules which are specific for each Fund.
  • The principles and priorities of cohesion policy are distilled through a process of consultation between the Commission and the EU countries. Each Member State produces a draft Partnership Agreement, which outlines the country's strategy and proposes a list of programmes. .. In addition to this Member States also present draft operational programmes (OP) which cover entire Member States and or regions. There will also be cooperation programmes involving more than one country. 
  • The Commission negotiates with the national authorities on the final content of the Partnership Agreement, as well as each programme . The programmes present the priorities of the country and/or regions or the cooperation area concerned. Workers, employers and civil society bodies can all participate in the programming and management of the OPs.
  • The programmes are implemented by the Member States and their regions. This means selecting, monitoring and evaluating hundreds of thousands of projects. This work is organised by 'managing authorities' in each country and/or region.
  • The Commission commits the funds (to allow the countries to start spending on their programmes).
  • The Commission pays the certified expenditure to each country.
  • The Commission monitors each programme, alongside the country concerned.
  • Both the Commission and the member countries submit reports throughout the programming period.

For more information, see the regulations governing the European Structural and Investment Funds.

EU Regional Policy: Stay informed