John Walsh, Administrator DG Regional Policy and Urban Affairs, Evaluation and European Semester Unit

2018 marks the 30th anniversary of delivering regional policy based on shared management programmes.

The 1998 reform saw an important shift from project-based financing to the programming approach with a stronger role for national and regional authorities. Since 1988, there have been important advances in the construction of the European Union. Under four multi-annual EU budget cycles (programming periods), the scope and scale of EU funding dedicated to addressing economic, social and territorial disparities has evolved significantly.

In April 2018, the Commission published the most comprehensive record to date of historic EU budget payments from the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund to the Member States and NUTS-2 regions.

What questions does the information answer and how can it be used? First and foremost, the data provides an answer to a deceptively simple question: “How much has my region received under regional policy?” The answer is now available thanks to the harmonised presentation of annualised EU payments made by NUTS-2 regions since 1988.

Top 20 beneficiary regions of ERDF investments 1988-2016

EU payments EUR million
1.    Andalucía, ES 22 000
2.    Campania, IT 13 177
3.    Norte, PT 13 075
4.    Sicilia, IT 11 691
5.    Attiki, EL 9 325
6.    Centro, PT 9 104
7.    Puglia, IT 8 838
8.    Galicia, ES 8 336
9.    Comunidad Valenciana, ES 7 448
10.Castilla y León, ES 6 782
11.Sachsen-Anhalt, DE 5 975
12.Calabria, ES 5 957
13.Mazowieckie, PL 5 777
14.Lisboa, PT 5 642
15.Kentriki Makedonia, EL 5 393
16.Castilla-La Mancha, ES 5 350
17.Extremadura; ES 5 235
18.Anatoliki Makedonia, Thraki, EL 5 188
19.Thüringen, DE 5 090
20.Brandenburg, DE 5 046


An annual analysis of the data also demonstrates the overlap between programme periods: as one programme closes another one begins.

ERDF Annual ERDF payments by programme period (EUR million)


Which EU funding programmes are covered in the dataset? The dataset not only covers the ERDF and the Cohesion Fund but also the European Social Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, as shown below:

EUR million 1989-1993 1994-1999 2000-2006 2007-2013
ERDF 28 640 77 736 122 012 180 547
ESF Not available Not available 66 003 71 000
CF[1] 18 078 30 619 66 186
EAGGF/EAFRD 923 17 905 22 200 86 107
Grand total 29 564 113 719 240 834 403  841

How was the data compiled? There were three steps:

  1. The annual EU payment history by programme was extracted from the Commission’s accounting system.
  2. The payments by programme were then regionalised by experts using the best information available from the programmes and estimating the regional distribution where detailed allocations were not available.
  3. The annual regionalised EU payments were further treated, using modelling techniques, to develop a best estimate of when the real expenditure, that led to the EU payments, took place.

Details of the methodologies used for the regionalisation and modelling of real expenditure are provided in reports linked to the dataset.

Who will be interested in the dataset? A wide range of Cohesion Policy stakeholders will find it useful. These data facilitate economic analysis of the effects of the EU funds, enable economic theories to be tested and improved and can enhance our understanding of the mechanisms behind regional development.

By October 2018, more than 2 000 users had viewed the dataset and more than 250 users had downloaded it.

The publication of the dataset was made by the Commission on the ESIF Open data Platform. The platform offers unprecedented access to the budgets and objectives of more than 530 programmes for 2014-2020. That platform operates at two levels:

  • Level 1 offers a wide range of pre-formatted visualisations of 2014-2020 investment plans and progress in implementation in terms of financial and physical indicators, that can be filtered by key theme, Member States, region or fund.
  • Level 2 offers a catalogue of open data datasets with metadata pages and various options for filtering, exporting, linking visualising and reuse. The dataset that are used for the 2014-2020 visualisations can be found there, while the catalogue also has datasets from earlier periods.

Happy 30th Birthday EU regional policy!!


[1] The Cohesion Fund was only created in 1993.

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