The European Commission has presented an overview of how EU structural funds are working in Member States.
The 'strategic report' on the implementation of 2007-2013 cohesion policy programmes pulls together available information from Member States, up to end 2011 in most cases.
With 4 more years to go until the programmes finish in 2015, investments under the European Regional Development Fund, Cohesion Fund and European Social Fund (ESF) have already led to progress and improvement for many citizens.
At the onset of the crisis in 2008, the EU acted rapidly to mobilise the uptake of structural funding with a series of measures.
Reprogramming from one thematic area to another was made more flexible, and indeed the report finds that, by the end of 2012, some EUR 36 billion – or 11% of total funds – have been switched to support the most pressing needs. Examples of this are the recent targeted measures in countries worst affected by youth unemployment, which are aiming to support 780 000 young people and 53 000 SMEs.
Other anti-crisis measures include:
These measures have helped employment: in Europe overall some 200 000 jobs have been created during the past two years, the majority in SMEs.
Between 2009 and 2010, the annual number of participants in ESF projects rose from 10 to 15 million and this level is being maintained, says the report.
Furthermore, from 2007 to 2010 alone, some 12.5 million people took part in actions supporting access to employment and 2.4 million went on to find work within six months. Over half of the participants were women (52%), in four countries even more than 60%.
The report finds clear evidence that structural fund programmes are achieving concrete results, but also underlines the relevance of the profound reforms currently being negotiated between the European Parliament and EU governments for cohesion policy from 2014-2020, including a more strategic concentration of resources on key priorities and more focus on results and evaluation.