At the beginning of the 1990s, the then 12 Member States had decided to set up an infrastructure policy at Community level in order to support the functioning of the internal market through continuous and efficient networks in the fields of transport, energy and telecommunications. The 20 years which passed since have seen major developments: the geographical extension as a result of four enlargements, Europe's increasing responsibility at global level, „revolutions“ in the field of Information and Communication Technologies, which all had an impact on European infrastructure development.
The first "Community Guidelines" for the development of a trans-European network in the transport sector, adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 1996, established a "master plan" connecting national networks of all transport modes. These Guidelines - modified in 1999 - determined projects' eligibility for EC/EU funding. Regulations governing EC/EU funding from the TEN-T budget were adopted for the periods 1995–1999, 2000–2006 and 2007–2013. Other EU funds – notably the Cohesion Fund and the ERDF – contributed also significantly to developing the TEN-T. At the same time, the Guidelines constituted a reference framework for Member States infrastructure policy.
With a view to the EU's financial framework 2014–2020, the European Commission launched a policy review in 2009. The review started with an analysis of the strength and weaknesses experienced so far, built on the advice of technical experts and involved a broad range of stakeholders through formal consultations and regular TEN-T Days. The new policy framework, which was established as a result of this review, brought innovations and significant progress in a number of areas: governance at European level, a strong legal form, a genuine network approach, a powerful instrument for TEN-T funding, etc.: A promising basis for future success.
In the first 20 years of TEN-T policy, not all the ambitious objectives were achieved. Nevertheless, there have been real success stories, which are a demonstration of the steady progress made in different areas. The smooth connection between the East and the West of Europe in the aftermath of the 2004 enlargement has been one of the most important achievements of TEN-T policy in the last decade.