Staff working document: Ex post evaluation of major projects in environment financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund between 2000 and 2013

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Available languages : English
Period :
Date : 21/02/2020

Cohesion policy is the EU’s key investment tool. Enshrined in Articles 174-178 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), it aims to  strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion by reducing disparities in the level of development between regions.
Cohesion policy relies notably on three Funds:

  • the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF);
  • the Cohesion Fund (CF);
  • the European Social Fund (ESF).

Environmental infrastructure projects are financed by the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund, as follows:

  • the ERDF invests in growth-enhancing sectors to foster competitiveness and create jobs in EU regions and cities. ERDF actions are designed to address territorial, economic, environmental and social challenges, with a focus on sustainable urban development; and
  • the Cohesion Fund invests in environment and transport networks in Member States with a Gross national income per inhabitant below 90% of the EU average (‘cohesion countries’). It aims to reduce economic and social disparities and to promote sustainable development.

In 1997, the Treaty of Amsterdam introduced a requirement to integrate environmental protection provisions into all the Union’s policies and activities. Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (1 December 2009), this requirement was incorporated in the TFEU, Article 11 which provides that: 

‘Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union’s policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development.’

As the EU’s main investment tool, cohesion policy contributes to and acts in synergy with several EU sectoral policies. The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) strongly support infrastructure projects that contribute to compliance with the environmental acquis communautaire and its broader sustainable development goals. In return, by reducing economic, social and territorial disparities between Member States and regions, and by supporting growth and competitiveness, environmental infrastructures contribute to the achievement of the core goals of cohesion policy.

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