Why read the flying flags charts ? 

One of the objectives of the ESIF Open Data platform was to make the allocation and use of the investment financing provided through the European Structural and Investments Funds (ESI Funds) more transparent.
Below we explain the "flying flags" chart - an animated scatterplot we use to visualise diverse patterns in the progress implementing investments over time. 

Key variables explained

The animated scatter plot presents three variables on investment progress over time: 
  • Planned (the basis for calculating the percentages) is the total budget of the ESI Funds programmes. It includes EU and national financing and represents the total planned investment volume. (Note: The total planned can change over time.)
  • % Decided (vertical axis): Total financial resources allocated to decided (selected) projects as a % of planned. In other words the relative value of the project pipeline decided at the reference date;
  • % Spent (horizontal axis): The total investment expenditure as a % of planned, reported to the programme managers by the decided (selected) projects;
  • As the data used in the chart changes over time two dates are used to "time stamp" the chart:
    • The "reference date" of the reported data (bottom left) shows the cut off data of the cumulative data reported;
    • The "refresh data" (bottom right) shows when the data was extracted from the information system. A more recent date may contain updated data at the reference date, i.e. corrections made by the programmes).
The chart is based on this dataset "2014-2020 ESIF finances implemented", which provides a rich source of information on investment progress by theme, country, fund and programme over time (in annual, cumulative snapshots).

How to interact with a"flying flags" chart?

  • The button "Animate chart" allows you to activate the animation of the flying flags from 2015 until the most recent values; 
  • "Select Year" allows you to manually move from year to year comparing rates of investment; 
  • The button "fixed axes" allows you to zoom on the flags by adjusting the scale (not recommend in "animate" mode - it is dizzying!!). 
  • The quadrants either side of the EU "cross hairs" show combinations of high and low  selection and high and low spending compared to the EU average (i.e. top right = high selection + high spending).
  • Float your cursor over a flag to see the relevant absolute EUR values and % values per flag;
  • Selecting the EU average among the chart legends highlights the EU average "track", showing how the EU average develops over time;
  • The national flags can also be selected and their tracks compared.

What do the flags tell us about investment rates?

The flying flags charts indicate different trends in implementing planned investment: 
  • The decided (selection) rate and spending rates (generally) increase year on year; 
  • The decided rates (selection) tends to rise towards 100% in the vertical axis in the first instance.
  • With a time lag, the spending increases on the horizontal axis. Many of the projects or schemes are multi annual in nature. This explains why selection decisions in 2015 take some years to be followed by spending.
The flags are widely distributed around the average rate presented by the EU flag. Therefore the data indicates that rates of investment progress (decided / spent) are variable with some countries persistently ahead or behind the EU average track over time. Also you can see that even if come countries have the same selection rate there are important differences in the spending rates.
The data indicates these differences in investment progress, but does not in itself not explain the variability.
Many reasons may explain the different elements in the variability of the decision rate on investments: 
  • A low rate of decided investments (selection) can be explained by  a conservative policy of only selecting very mature projects or, real delays in selecting projects due to different delays (missing strategies, administrative delays, lacking capacities among project promoters, etc.;
  • A high rate of decided investments may reflect a mature stock of projects, or a relatively liberal approach to the selection of project ideas (which may take years to mature and deliver expenditure and to conclude).
Note that the decided rates may exceed 100% in case the a country has decided on a portfolio of projects financially greater that the agreed plan. That can happens as a "portfolio risk management strategy" to mitigate the risk of the failure to deliver some projects later in the period). 
Spending rate also show high variability. As this data comes from the decided project there are probably two main explanations for the spending rates:
  • High spending rate are linked to portfolios of mature projects and / or a higher proportion of actions that can be delivered and generate expenditure quickly; 
  • Low spending rates (in the early years) can be linked to a high proportion of multi annual infrastructure projects (or other multi annual funding schemes), slow selection in earlier years or the selection of less mature projects (still needing design, development, building or environmental permits, state aid or procurement processes to be completed). 

Where can I find more flying flag charts? 

These charts are available under the "Finances Implemented" section on the following web pages :
  1. The Thematic pages (choose a the specific theme page) 
  2. The Fund pages (choose a specific fund page) 
You can also reuse any of these charts on your own website by capturing the "embed code" (top right on the ESIF open data platform) and reusing it!! 
BTW. we also track the investment outputs in particular using "common indicators": check out this story  


  Author: REGIO.B2 - J. WALSH - REGIO-EVAL@ec.europa.eu