Regional Development and EU Cohesion Policy: A Tailored Approach towards Regional Development Needs

Regional Development and EU Cohesion Policy: A Tailored Approach towards Regional Development Needs

September 2018

European Cohesion Policy since 60 years, constitutes the mechanism used by the EU to speed up the economies of regions which are falling behind in terms of development and growth. Through its main funding instruments, the Cohesion Policy has invested in people and communities all over Europe, helping them to get better jobs and ensuring fairer treatment and opportunities for all EU citizens. This policy aims at strengthening European economic, social and territorial cohesion by reducing disparities among regions, with particular reference to rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps.

The recently adopted EU Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 will further adjust its interventions to regional and local needs, placing resources where they are most needed, and support locally-led development strategies. Therefore, the new Cohesion Policy stands for a “Europe Moving Closer to Citizens”, making the regional development policies more effective and tangible to European communities.

The European Commission has developed in the new Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 a new set of criteria to better mirror the socio-economic situation, focusing in the resources of less developed countries, while providing significant financial support to regions facing industrial transition. More concretely, the future EU Cohesion Policy will aim at increasing youth employment, addressing low education level, investing in climate change and the reception and integration of migrants etc.

As regards to the cohesion funding mechanisms, represented mainly by the: European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund and European Cohesion Fund, Member States whose Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is below 90% of EU average, will benefit more from these Funds. On the other hand, EU will keep on investing to help low-growth and low-income regions in the South and East of Europe to catch up.

In a nutshell future Cohesion Policy will be focused on 5 key policy objectives:

1) Smarter Europe, through innovation, digitization, economic transformation and support to small and medium-sized businesses;

2) Greener, Carbon free Europe, with the aim to implement the Paris Agreement and focusing in energy transition, renewables and the fight against climate change;

3) Connected Europe, with investments in strategic transport and digital networks;

4) Social Europe, supporting quality employment, education, skills, social inclusion and equal access to healthcare;

5) Europe Closer to Citizens, by supporting locally-led development strategies and sustainable urban development across the EU.

In the future EU Cohesion Policy, cities are considered the engines of growth and innovation, but in the same time are facing pressing challenges such as air pollution, unemployment, and social exclusion. In this regards, the 2021- 2027 Cohesion Policy will create the “European Urban Initiative”, meaning that in the future, substantial EU funds will be dedicated to investments in sustainable urban development.

With an expected budget of €373 billion for 2021-2027, the future Cohesion Policy has the investment power to help bridge the regional gaps between new and old member countries, as boosting solidarity, social cohesion and sustainable development.



– EU budget: Regional Development and Cohesion Policy beyond 2020, European Commission. 29 May 2018 (

– Reducing regional disparity in the EU: Cohesion Policy aims, Euronews, 6 March 2018,

– Regional Development and Cohesion Policy beyond 2020: Questions and Answers, European Commission, 29 May 2018,

– Regional Development and Cohesion Policy 2021-2027, European Commission, 8 June 2018,