Revealed: the historic pattern of EU investments in your region

2018 marked the 30th anniversary of delivering EU regional policy using a programming approach based on "shared management".  The 1998 reform saw an important shift from project-based financing to programming with a stronger role for national and regional authorities. Since 1988, there have been important advances in the construction of the European Union. Under the four multi-annual EU budget cycles (programming periods), the scope and scale of EU funding dedicated to addressing economic, social and territorial disparities has also evolved.
In April 2018, the Commission published the most comprehensive historical record of the EU budget payments from the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund to the Member States and NUTS-2 regions.  
What questions does the EU payment data answer and how can it be used?
First and foremost, the data provides the answer to that deceptively difficult question: “How much has my region/country received under regional policy?”  The answer is now available thanks to the harmonised presentation of annualised EU payments made by NUTS-2 regions (since 1988 to 2015).
In this chart below you can filter by country to see payments made by region over the different planning periods.  Andalucia in Spain was the largest beneficiary over many programme periods in terms of absolute volume of payments made. 
TIPS: Floating the cursor over the chart you can see the absolute values by programme period; Use the filters to explore; click "view source data" for full screen and links to underlying data.
Looking at the overall volume of investment over time.  

An annual analysis of the data also demonstrates the overlap between programme periods: as one programme closes another one begins.

Earlier programme periods tended to drag on and take many years to close.  These delays have in fact become shorter with the application of the spending discipline rules called N+2 and N+3.  This will become clearer when the 2007-2013 closure payments are added in late 2019. 
In the chart below you can use the filters to look at the payment patterns by fund and country. 
A unique feature: Modelling the EU payments to estimate the underlying expenditure in regional economies

Over the budget periods, the EU payments made were predominantly in reimbursement of expenditure actually incurred. In other words the EU payments were made after the actual expenditure.  This lag may distort economic analysis of the effect to the investments.  The Commission therefore asked for a treatment of the EU payments to make a best estimate of the real expenditure by year. The comparison of EU payments and modelled real expenditure can be compared below. Real payments typically take place earlier and end earlier than the EU payments.

Which EU funds and funding periods are covered?
The dataset set is the most comprehensive record yet of ERDF EU payments made to Member States from 1988 until 2015 (with full data for 2016 -2018 to be added in late 2019).  In addition to the ERDF you also find data on the Cohesion Fund, the European Social Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, as shown below. 
(CF footnote: the fund was only created in 1993). 
How was the data complied
There were three steps:
  1. The annual EU payment history by programme was extracted from the Commission’s accounting system.
  2. The payments by programme were then regionalised by a consultant using the best information available from the programmes and estimating the regional distribution where detailed allocations were not available.
  3. The annual regionalised EU payments were further treated, using modelling techniques, to develop a best estimate of when the real expenditure took place that led to the EU payments.
Details of the methodologies used for the regionalisation and modelling of real expenditure are provided in reports linked to the dataset.
Who will be interested in the dataset?
A wide range of Cohesion Policy stakeholders will find it useful. This data facilitates economic analysis of the effects of the EU funds, enable economic theories to be tested and improved and can enhance our understanding of the mechanisms behind regional development. By the end of 2018, more than 3 000 users had viewed the dataset and 440 researchers and students had downloaded it.  
As one example of reuse, below you find a visualisation prepared in 2018 by the House of Commons Library to show the pattern of absolute EU payments by NUTS 2 region between 1989 and 2015. The .gif prompted a lively debate on Reddit(c): 
To find out more: 
Author: REGIO.B2/JW   
Text: January 2019