Frequently Asked Questions
» What does co-financed programme by ESF, ERDF and Cohesion Fund mean?
The financial enhancement from the Funds (European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund, Cohesion Fund) co-exists with the national public co-financing. In this sense, for every programme which is co-financed, it means that the expenses paid come from resources of the European Union and the Greek state. The percentage of co-financing is calculated using a series of financial-social criteria.
» I am an individual or I have an enterprise. How can I be financed?
An individual or an enterprise is availed of and/or financed through the works by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) implemented by sundry entities.
As pertains to ESF it sets out to improve employment and job opportunities in the European Union and supports actions in the following areas :
- adapting workers and enterprises: lifelong learning schemes, designing and spreading innovative working organisations.
- access to employment for job seekers, the unemployed, women and migrants.
- social integration of disadvantaged people and combating discrimination in the job market; and
- strengthening human capital by reforming education systems and setting up a network of teaching establishments.
The aforementioned actions are implemented by entities, such as OAED, Municipalities, Vocational Training Centers, Non Governmental Organizations, (NGOs), etc.
ERDF it aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting regional imbalances and supports actions in the following areas:
- direct aid to investments in companies to create sustainable jobs
- infrastructures linked notably to research and innovation, telecommunications, environment, energy and transport,
- financial instruments to support regional and local development and to foster cooperation between towns and regions,
- technical assistance measures.
» What actions are financed by Cohesion Fund?
The Cohesion Fund is aimed at Member States whose Gross National Income (GNI) per inhabitant is less than 90% of the Community average. It serves to reduce their economic and social shortfall, as well as to stabilise their economy. It supports actions in the framework of the Convergence objective. It is now subject to the same rules of programming, management and monitoring as the ESF and the ERDF.
The Cohesion Fund finances activities under the following categories :
- trans-European transport networks, and
In the category of the environment, Cohesion Fund can also support projects related to energy or transport, as long as they clearly present a benefit to the environment:
- energy efficiency,
- use of renewable energy,
- developing rail transport,
- supporting intermodality,
- strengthening public transport, etc.
» What is policy cohesion?
Cohesion stands for solidarity among Member States to make regions more attractive, innovative and competitive places to live and work. This benefits all regions: the less-developed ones receive investment which would not otherwise be available while, at the same time, business opportunities are created for people and companies in more developed regions, too.
The Union has invested around €480 billion on the ‘less favoured’ regions since 1988, of which around 70% was in regions with income levels below 75% of the average.
The policy is outlined in the new regulations covering the period 2007-2013, while the principles and priorities regarding its implementation are highlighted in the Community Strategic Guidelines.
» What are the strategic guidelines?
The Strategic Guidelines take the form of a document prepared by the Commission to help national and regional authorities modernise their economies and connect their programming with the EU-wide drive to create more growth and quality jobs. The guidelines are complementary to the regulations.
» Who benefits?
The Union has given to the cohesion policy a clear focus on the poorest regions and countries.
Over 80% of the cash will go to what we call “Convergence” regions, basically those which have less than 75% of Europe’s average income (measured as Gross Domestic Product per head).
About half of the population of Europe will be covered, and most of the new Member States. 15.7% of the money will be set aside for ‘Regional Competitiveness’ in the whole of the rest of Europe, that is, anywhere which is not a “Convergence” region. This money will be used for Growth and Jobs projects to face up modernisation processes in all other regions. The rest is for “Territorial Co-operation” between border regions in Europe, and for networking activities.
» Which fund is addressed to the respective objective of the cohesion policy of the period 2007 – 2013?
The whole European Union is covered by one or several objectives of the cohesion policy. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund contribute to the meeting of three objectives, “cohesion”, “regional competitiveness and employment” and “European territorial cooperation”, as follows :
- Cohesion objective – Funds : ERDF, ESF, Cohesion Fund
- Objective of Regional Competitiveness and Employment – Funds : ERDF, ESF
- Objective of the European Territory Cooperation – Funds: ERDF.
» What is meant by the term “Beneficiary”?
An operator, body or firm, whether public or private, responsible for initiating or initiating and implementing operations. In the context of aid schemes under Article 87 of the Treaty, beneficiaries are public or private firms carrying out an individual project and receiving public aid.
» Is there enough money to make a real difference?
Year by year, several thousands of projects in all Member States receive funding through the European Cohesion Policy and contribute to:
- the catching-up of poor regions,
- the increase of regional competitiveness and
- the creation of jobs.
The selection of these projects is based on the analysis of the needs and development perspectives of regional economies, and it is carried out by regional and national authorities in the framework of an EU-wide strategic approach.
The outcome of the funds’ interventions is measured by both Member States and the European Commission. Evaluations show that between 1988 and 2001 the gap between the poorest regions and the EU average was reduced by one-sixth. For example, the increase in the level of GDP due to Cohesion Policy was 10% in Greece and 8.5% in Portugal between 1989 and 1999. The projected increase for both countries in the current period 2000-2006 is about 6%. Concerning the 2007-2013 period, recent research suggests that additional
GDP growth in the new Member States will be in the order of about 7-12% and that 2.5 million new jobs could be created.
You do not need to look at the work which has been done for long to realise that a lot of projects have been successfully completed and that they have indeed made a big difference. Look at Athens where a Community-funded suburban railway has made the brand new airport accessible and where trams, extended metros and a ring road have helped make the
city’s sky bluer by reducing pollution.
Look at the new water distribution and treatment systems which are going into Polish, Lithuanian and Estonian cities. Look at the business and high-tech clusters which have been encouraged in Sweden, Finland, Germany, France and Ireland.
» How do these activities relate to everyday life?
Cohesion Policy projects relate to the citizen in two very important ways:
- through the participation of all active citizens – the so-called civil society – at the stage of preparation, programming and implementation of a project, and
- through the actual benefits an efficiently planned and implemented project brings to the local community.
In many ways, the results of Cohesion Policy are just around the corner for most European citizens.
» How is transparency ensured?
The most important players in this respect are the Member States themselves. They are the ones which have primary responsibility for informing their citizens about the activities which are co-financed with Community Structural Funds. Cohesion Policy is one of the few EU policies which impose a publicity and information obligation on Member States. At the same time, the Commission brings together the officials who do the information job in the Member States so they can exchange ideas on the kind of publicity which really works. This working group, the ‘Structural Funds Information Team’ is one of the most dynamic and productive that we work with.
» What has changed today compared to the 3rd CSF 2000 – 2006?
Within the implementation frame of the programme period 2007 – 2013 compared to the programme period 2000 – 2006 the following basic changes have been made :
- All rules governing financial management are also valid for the Cohesion Fund.
- Regarding the eligibility of expenditure, the rules are established at national rather than European level.
- The co-financing rates have changed. In the previous period, pre-financing represented 7% of the participation of the funds to the action concerned (for the first 15 Member States) and 16% for the 10 Member States which joined in 2004. In the present period, pre-financing is divided in two or three years and the percentages are lower.
- The first intermediary payment can only be made if the Member State gives the Commission a description detailing its management, certification and auditing bodies.
- The application for the first intermediary payment must be made within 24 months following the transfer by the Commission of the first proportion of the pre-financing allocation (otherwise the Member State must reimburse the pre-financing allocation).
- Reimbursements are calculated depending on the level of each priority area (and not on the level of the measures as in 2000-2006).
- The n+3 rule is introduced for the 12 most recent Member States, as well as for Greece and Portugal until 2010.
- Financial management becomes more flexible: a partial closure of transactions already completed is possible (before the programme as a whole is completed).