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Aims of Cohesion Policy


How does the European Union cohesion policy works?

The cohesion policy aims at support for measures leading to levelling economic and social conditions within all European Union regions. In particular, the European Union makes for mitigating differences at the level of regional development and eliminating backwardness of the least favoured regions and islands, including rural areas. The operational programmes, described in point 9 of the following manual, are the key instruments for implementing the cohesion policy.

The European Union regional/cohesion policy, first of all, means assistance, in a form of subsidies, for European Union regions. The regional/cohesion policy consists in implementation of the three major objectives:

  • convergence – that is cohesion – the European Union supports development of infrastructure and economic and human capacity in the poorest regions (almost 82% of all expenditure under Structural Funds),
  • growth in competitiveness of regions and jobs – that is the European Union supports innovations and scientific research, sustainable development and vocational trainings within less-developed areas (almost 16% of all expenditure under Structural Funds),
  • European territorial co-operation – that is support, promotion and implementation of joint projects of international nature within the territory of the whole EU.

Hence, the cohesion policy consists in support for economic, social (e.g. fight against unemployment) and spatial (inter alia, improvement of rail, rood and air transport) development.

Selected regional policy financial instruments.  Type of funds (European Regional Development Fund – ERDF, European Social Fund - ESF, Cohesion Fund – CF)

The cohesion policy for 2007-2013 aims at increased economic growth and employment in all European Union regions and cities. It is implemented, primarily, thanks to two structural funds, i.e. European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF), as well as Cohesion Fund (CF).

The European Regional Development Fund is the largest of funds. It aims at support for regions, and to put it more precisely, at levelling differences in given regions compared to richer and better developed ones. ERDF finances all EU programmes which are targeted at assistance for regions lagging behind. The areas that can be financed from this Fund are presented below:

  • initiative for local development and employment, as well as activity of small and medium-sized enterprises
  • profitable production investments to create and safeguard sustainable jobs,
  • infrastructure,
  • development of tourism and investments within the field of culture,
  • protection and improvement of the environment,
  • development of Information Society.

As a result of investments within the above-mentioned fields financed from the ERDF, the European Union supports development and creation of new jobs, as well as exercises a positive influence on economic development.

The European Social Fund is most commonly associated with the possibility to finance trainings, workshops and grant support to employment etc. Indeed, the ESF was established to improve the quality and accessibility of jobs and employment opportunities within the European Union. ESF handles the following areas:

  • promoting an active labour market policy which aims at counteracting and preventing unemployment,
  • counteracting the phenomenon of social exclusion,
  • lifelong learning,
  • vocational advancement of personnel employed in economic sector,
  • entrepreneurship development,
  • increased access and participation of women in the labour market.

The Cohesion Fund supports two sectors: environment and transport. Interestingly, from the date of its accession to the European Union in 2004 Poland among all other EU member states received the greatest amount of resources from this fund! The Cohesion Fund awards financing to large investment projects within the field of environmental protection. Regional or local authorities, which are formed from gmina associations or other public entities, e.g. local authority undertakings, are key beneficiaries of aid awarded under Cohesion Fund. This Fund supports the following areas:

  • improvement of the quality of surface waters,
  • improvement of the quality and distribution of drinking water,
  • rationalisation of waste management and protection of the earth surface,
  • improvement of air quality,
  • ensuring anti-flood security,
  • ensuring cohesion of communication network within the country and between individual regions with other European countries,
  • development of safe road infrastructure.

The Cohesion Fund is an instrument of the European Union structural policy but it is not a structural fund. The assistance under Cohesion Fund is awarded to countries and not regions, as is in the case of ESF and ERDF. The Cohesion Fund resources are directed to member states in which the gross national product (GNP) per capita is lower than 90% of the average in European Union countries.




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