The cohesion policy of the European Union may be implemented thanks to structural funds – the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund. The major goal of the policy is stimulating the economic growth and employment in all regions and cities of the EU.
Through investments in the cohesion policy the EU supports development and creation of work places. Furthermore, it has a positive impact on the development of the economy. In November 2013 the Parliament approved the cohesion policy reform. The financial measures reserved for the implementation of this policy in years 2014-2020 amount to EUR 351.8 billion and Poland is going to absorb EUR 82.5 billion from these funds.
As the fund with the highest resources, the European Regional Development Fund aims at reducing the gap between the levels of development of Europe’s regions. The ERDF finances all EU programs with the objective to help less-favoured regions lagging behind in following areas:
- Local development, employment, activity of small and medium enterprises;
- Profitable productive investments which contributes to creating and safeguarding employment;
- Tourism development and investments in culture;
- Environmental protection and improvement of the environment;
- Development of the information society.
In the case of future investments within the ERDF following priorities will be taken into consideration:
- Research and development;
- Digital agenda;
- Support for small and medium-sized enterprises;
- Low carbon economy.
In years 2014-2020 Poland will receive about EUR 40.2 billion from the ERDF.
The main objective of the European Social Fund is enhancement of quality and accessibility of work places, as well as employment opportunities in the EU. The ESF covers following areas:
- Promotion of active labour market policy aimed at tackling unemployment;
- Combating social exclusion;
- Lifelong learning;
- Improving economic personnel;
- Developing entrepreneurship;
- Improving the access and participation of women in the labour market.
The ESF co-finances national or regional operational programs adopted for the seven years period of the total financial appropriation. The EFS share in the allocation of structural funds within the financial perspective 2014-2020 for Poland totals 24.7%, which exceeds the minimum level for the EU amounting to 23.1%.
The Cohesion Fund is an instrument of the structural policy, but it is not a structural fund. The support within the Cohesion Fund is offered to States, not regions as it is in the case of the EFS and the ERDF. The funding is provided in the Member States in which the GDP per capita is lower that 90% of the average GDP per capita in other EU Member States. The Fund provides support to two sectors: environment and transportation. Main beneficiaries of the Cohesion Fund are self-government units, as well as associations of communes created by them or other public entities such as municipal services companies being the property of a commune.
The support within the Fund is offered in following areas:
- Improving the quality of surface water;
- Improving the quality and distribution of drinking water;
- Rationalising waste management and earth’s surface protection;
- Improving the quality of air;
- Fire safety;
- Road network cohesion between a given country and other European countries, as well as at a regional level;
- Development of the safe road infrastructure.
The financial means for Poland in years 2014-2020 within the Cohesion Fund total EUR 23.2 billion.
Regional Operational Programs
Regional operational programs, similarly to the national operational programs, result from proposals of Member States that are then approved by the European Commission. The main objectives of these programs are promoting an increase in employment in the least developed Member States (convergence objective) and improving competitiveness in other regions (competitiveness and employment objectives). The exact shape of the regional operational programs is a subject to negotiations with the European Commission at present time. The programs were developed by self-government units of voivodeships. Self-government units will receive EUR 31.28 billion in years 2014-2020, which constitutes about 40% of cohesion policy funds invested within regional operational programs. In contrast to the financial perspective 2007-2013, the regional programs will now be based on two funds. In other words they will be financed by both the ERDF and the EFS.
Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD)
The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived supports the activity of Member States consisting in material aid provided to those most in need. The forms of support embrace food, clothing and items for personal use.
Except aid in kind, the EU Member States are engaged in actions aimed at social inclusion and lifting people out of poverty by providing counselling and support. In years 2014-2020 Poland will receive about EUR 473 million from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived.
European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF)
The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund provides support to people losing their jobs as a result of group dismissal caused by major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation, e.g. when a large company shuts down or production is moved outside the EU, or as a result of the global economic and financial crisis.
The EGF has a maximum annual budget of EUR 150 million for the period 2014-2020. It can fund up to 60% of the cost of projects designed to help workers made redundant find another job or set up their own business.
EGF cases are managed and implemented by national or regional authorities. Each project runs for 2 years. The EGF can co-finance projects including measures such as:
- help with looking for a job;
- careers advice;
- education, training and re-training;
- mentoring and coaching;
- entrepreneurship and business creation.
The Fund can also provide training allowances, mobility/relocation allowances, subsistence allowances or similar support.
The beneficiaries of EGF projects are individuals made redundant. Over the period 2014-2020 this can include the self-employed, temporary workers and fixed-term workers.
The European Union Solidarity Fund enables the EU to provide financial support to a Member State, an accession country or a region in the event of a major natural disaster. The assistance from the Fund is complementary to the public efforts of the beneficiary state. It is used to finance actions leading to compensation for damages. No later than ten weeks after the first damage caused by the disaster, the state affected should submit an application to the Commission for assistance from the Fund. The procedure for allocating a grant can take several months. The Solidarity Fund grant must be used within one year of the date on which it was allocated.
European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
The Fund contributes to improving:
- the competitiveness of agriculture and forestry;
- the environment and the countryside;
- the quality of life and the management of economic activity in rural areas.
The Fund complements national, regional and local actions, which contribute to Community priorities. The Commission and the Member States ensure that the Fund is consistent and compatible with other Community support measures.
It is estimated that about EUR 5.2 billion within the cohesion policy will be allocated in the form of instruments in national and regional programs dedicated to the development of rural areas. According to assumptions made, the public funding provided for the implementation of the Rural Development Program in years 2014-2020 will amount to EUR 13 513 295 000, including EUR 8 598 280 814 from the EU budget and EUR 4 915 014 186 as a national contribution.
European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) replaced the European Fisheries Fund and many other instruments. The Fund co-finances projects contributing to work places’ creation and improving the quality of life of the coastal communities in Europe. Limiting bureaucracy is to make the access to the funding easier for potential beneficiaries.
The Fund shall provide financial support aimed at:
- ensuring the long-term future of fishing activities and the sustainable use of fishery resources;
- reducing pressure on stocks by matching EU fleet capacity to available;
- promoting the sustainable development of inland fishing;
- helping boost economically viable enterprises in the fisheries sector and make operating structures more competitive;
- fostering the protection of the environment and the conservation of marine resources;
- encouraging sustainable development and improving the quality of life in areas with an active fishing industry;
- promoting equality between women and men active in the fisheries sector.