The EU’s Regional Policy (also known as Cohesion Policy) is the European Union’s way of dealing with the social, economic and territorial disparities that exist among the 28 countries and 273 regions which the EU is composed of. It does that by supporting job creation, sustainable development and business competitiveness.
The Regional Policy provides funds for projects to be enacted by local officials at a regional level, thus largely bypassing the national government. In doing so, this policy represents one of the key tools of European governance across the EU space, attracting more than a third of the EU’s overall budget. For the period 2014-2020, the Regional Policy is to be delivered through three main funds:
1) The European Regional Development Fund – aimed at helping to reduce the economic and social imbalances between the regions of the EU. Its investments are focused on supporting innovation and research, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), digital opportunities for people and businesses, and the low-carbon economy.
2) The Cohesion Fund – aimed at helping poorer member states (i.e. those whose GNI/inhabitant is less than 90% of the EU average) in catching up with the richer ones. Currently, the countries eligible for this fund are Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
3) The European Social Fund – aimed at directly helping people who find themselves at risk of poverty by increasing education, training and employment opportunities across the union.