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Regional policy


Bridging the prosperity gap

The EU may be one of the richest parts of the world, but there are large differences in prosperity levels both between and within EU countries. The wealthiest country, Luxembourg, is more than seven times richer than Romania and Bulgaria, the poorest and newest EU members.

However, the dynamic effects of EU membership, coupled with a vigorous and targeted regional policy, can bring results.

Solidarity and cohesion


EU regional policy aims to:

  • help each region achieve its full potential
  • improve competitiveness and employment at regional level by investing in areas of high growth potential
  • bring living standards in the countries that have joined the EU since 2004 up to the EU average as quickly as possible.


The causes of inequality


Regional inequalities can be due to many things, including:

  • longstanding handicaps imposed by geographic remoteness
  • more recent social and economic change
  • the legacy of formerly centrally-planned economic systems
  • combinations of these and other factors.


The impact of these disadvantages is frequently evident in:

  • social deprivation
  • poor quality schools
  • higher unemployment
  • inadequate infrastructure.


Creating growth and jobs

The idea is for regional policy to dove-tail with the EU’s agenda to promote growth and jobs by:

  • making countries and regions more attractive for investments by improving accessibility, providing quality services (such as high-speed internet) and preserving environmental potential
  • encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship and the knowledge economy through the development of information and communications technologies
  • creating more and better jobs by attracting more people into employment, improving workers’ adaptability and increasing investment in human capital.


Available funding

Regional spending for 2007-13 accounts for over one third of the EU budget – or some €350 billion.

Depending on the what is being funded, and in which country or region, the money comes from three difference sources:

  • The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – general infrastructure, innovation, and investments.
  • The European Social Fund (ESF) – vocational training projects, other kinds of employment assistance, and job-creation programmes.
  • The Cohesion Fund – environmental and transport infrastructure projects and the development of renewable energy. This funding is for 15 countries whose living standards are less than 90% of the EU average (12 newest EU members plus Portugal, Greece and Spain).


Where and how it is spent

Regional policy is investing in all EU regions, in line with the Europe 2020 goals.
Particular efforts are being made in central and east European EU countries and regions with special needs in the other EU countries.

There is a strong focus on support for innovation and research, sustainable development, and job training in less advanced regions. Some funding is also provided for cross-border and inter-regional cooperation projects.

Find out more


*This text originates from the EU's official website:

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