Revealed: the historic pattern of EU investments in your region

1. Introduction

The Commission first published a dataset with the comprehensive historic record of EU budget payments from the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund to the Member States and NUTS-2 regions in April 2018. That year marked the 30th anniversary of delivering EU regional policy using a programming approach based on "shared management".  The 1988 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 May 2020 the original 2018 dataset was updated with the following main changes:
  • The EU payment data for the 2007-2013 period were supplemented with the addition of full payment histories for the years 2016-2018; and a more accurate regionalisation of EAGGF payments (assignment to NUTS-2 regions), in particular in the case of payments to DE and FR; 
  • The complete EU payments for the period 2014-2020, for all ESI Funds, were added for the years 2014-2018. 
(The original 1988-2015 dataset published in 2018 is archived here.)

2. 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 2018).
In this chart below you can filter by country to see payments made by region over the different planning periods.  Andalucia, Spain is calculated as  the largest beneficiary over many programme periods in terms of absolute volume of payments made. 
It should be borne in mind that EU payments to national programmes have been allocated using pro rata rules based on NUTS2 populations and information on aid intensities ("categories of region"), when available.  Such calculation are estimations and not statements that that precise volume was invested in "Regio X".   
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.

3. 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. 
In the chart below you can use filters (top right) to look at the payment patterns by fund and country. 

4. A unique feature: modelling the EU payments to estimate the underlying expenditure in regional economies

Over the budget periods, EU payments made were predominantly in reimbursement of expenditure actually incurred. In other words the EU payments were made after the actual expenditure.  Using the date of EU payments may distort economic analysis of the effect to the investments.  The Commission therefore commissioned a treatment of the EU payments to make a best estimate of when the actual expenditure took place 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.

5. Which EU funds and funding periods are covered?

The total sum of all funding present in the dataset over the 20 years is over EUR 900 billion.   

The dataset set is a comprehensive record of EU payments made from the ERDF to Member States from 1988 until 2018. In addition to the ERDF, you also find data on the Cohesion Fund (CF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD, previously EAGGF) across multiple periods.  

For the period 2014-2020 all ESI Funds are included, involving the additoon of  the European Maritime and Fisheries fund (EMFF), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).  

The following notes clarify the scope of the data:
  • Under the ERDF, EU payments to Interreg programmes are not included in the regionalisation;  
  • The Cohesion Fund was only created in 1993; For the EU14 countries that joined in 2004 and 2007 the EU payments made under the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) are presented under the Cohesion Fund; 
  • Before 2007 the EAFRD was previously the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF);
  • For ESF and EMFF the full payment history was not available for all periods to regionalise. 

6. 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. (The annualised EU payment record for the periods 1988-2013 are in this dataset.
  2. The interim and final payments payments to programme were then regionalised using the best information available from the programmes and estimating the regional distribution (by population size) where detailed allocations were not available.
  3. The annual regionalised EU payments were further treated, using modelling techniques, to develop an estimate of when the actual 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 the reports linked below in the Section "Find out more".
Treatment of 2014-2020 EU payment data 
In May 2020 the EU payments from the period 2014-2020 were regionalised and added to the historic dataset for the first time (covering 2015-2018 interim payments).  
That work used the following open data reference sources and the code found on the github:

7. 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, enables theories to be tested and improved and can enhance our understanding of the mechanisms behind regional development. By May 2020, around 7 500 users had viewed the dataset and 3 500 researchers / students had downloaded it.  
As one example of reuse, across 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)

8. Find out more

Contact us: 
Find more #ESIFOpenData stories here.
Author: REGIO.B2/JW   
Original Text: 01/2019; Rev 1/2020; Rev 2  5/2020.