Cohesion Policy at work: key outcomes of EU investments in 2007-2013

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The European Commission has released the findings of an independent evaluation of EU investments done in the 2007-2013 period, with specific reports for each Member State. This evaluation highlights the added value of Cohesion Policy, while feeding into the reflection on the future EU budget after 2020.

One million jobs created, corresponding to one-third of overall net job creation across the EU during this period and €2.74 of additional GDP for every euro of Cohesion Policy money invested, meaning an estimated return of €1 trillion of additional GDP by 2023 – these are the key results of the evaluation of the 2007-2013 period.

The policy has benefitted the economies of all EU Member States and supported them during difficult economic times. It has invested in nearly 400,000 SMEs and start-ups and has been a pillar of the EU's growth and jobs agenda.

Among other telling examples in Member States, the policy has helped to:

  • Create over 100,000 jobs in Germany
  • Support 21,000 start-ups in Sweden
  • Support around 3,900 research projects in Hungary
  • Upgrade over 630 km of road, mainly on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), in Latvia

The evaluation of the 2007-2013 period also helped identify areas where the policy can improve:

  • Result-orientation and performance

The evaluation indicates that targets and focus on results can be strengthened. This has been addressed in the 2014-2020 reform, with the introduction of specific objectives per programme – for example, jobs created or reduced CO2 emissions – and a focus on a few themes, with high growth potential. Further focus on performance, through simplification and increased synergies with other EU funds is central to the reflection on the post-2020 framework.

  • Use of financial instruments

The 2007-2013 period saw an increased use of the funds through financial instruments, which amounted to €11.5 billion, up from €1 billion in 2000-2006.  These instruments played a crucial role in providing funding to SMEs during the credit crunch of the financial crisis.

The evaluation found that the legal provisions were not detailed enough and this, together with the lack of experience of many implementing bodies, led to delays in implementation. A challenge for Cohesion Policy programmes in the current and future programming periods will be to widen the scope of these instruments beyond enterprise support and to streamline the rules governing them.

  • Sustainable urban development

11% of the 2007-2013 European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) envelope was spent on urban development and social infrastructure projects, i.e. nearly €29 billion. The evaluation found that the impact of EU investments in this field could have been maximised by designing integrated strategies for urban regeneration and social projects, with a greater involvement of local stakeholders and beneficiaries of the funds.

In the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes, and faced with new urban challenges such as the need to integrate migrants, the Commission is increasingly seeking to involve urban stakeholders  - local authorities, NGO's or business partners - in EU urban policy making, either through partnerships in the framework of the Urban Agenda for the EU or through direct dialogue with mayors.

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