Several key principles underpin cohesion policy:


This principle has three aspects:

  • Concentration of resources: the greater part of structural fund resources are concentrated on the poorest regions and countries.
  • Concentration of effort: targeting resources on policy objectives for a more competitive and smarter Europe and for a greener Europe.
  • Concentration of spending: at the beginning of each programming period, annual funding is allocated to each programme. These funds committed for years 2021-2026 must be spent by the end of the third year after their allocation (know as the n+3 rule). The funds committed for 2027 must be spent by the end 2029.


Cohesion policy does not fund individual projects. Instead, it funds multi-annual national programmes aligned on EU objectives and priorities.

For more information on how programming works, see regional policy stages: step-by-step.


Each programme is developped through a collective process involving authorities at European, regional and local level, social partners and organisations from civil society.

This partnership applies to all stages of the programming process, from design, through management and implementation to monitoring and evaluation.

This approach help ensure that action is adapted to local and regional needs and priorities.