Tracking progress with detailed cohesion investment themes

Understanding the thematic focus of cohesion policy programmes

Cohesion policy is the EU's policy to support the reduction of social economic and territorial disparities - the promotion of "catching up".  It is funded in a coordinated way by three EU funds each focusing on a range of themes, with the Cohesion Fund focussed also a limited number of eligible EU countries. 
In February 2020 we published new interactive visualisations to allow stakeholders explore and compare the detailed investment themes ("intervention fields") across the funds, countries and thematic objectives. The tool is designed to provide insight starting from the original planned amounts.  The dataset with full details is open and accessible using the links provided.

1. European Regional Development Fund

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is financially the largest fund, covering all countries and investing under all eleven European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) thematic objectives. It has a strong focus on 4 key priority areas: Research and Innovation, Digital Economy, SME Competitiveness and Low Carbon Economy. The ERDF also finances Interreg – cross-border, transnational and interregional co-operation under the Territorial Co-operation objective. Under the eleven thematic objectives the ERDF uses practically all 123 of the detailed "intervention field" codes. 
Explore using the chart below.

2. Cohesion Fund

The Cohesion Fund is available to 15 EU countries - Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Its funding is allocated to trans-European transport networks and to projects falling under EU environmental priorities. 

Explore using the chart below.

3. European Social Fund

The European Social Fund (ESF) is Europe’s main instrument for investing in people. It helps people find employment or create businesses, supports disadvantaged groups, improves education and makes public services more efficient. The ESF finances 4 of the 11 cohesion policy thematic objectives through 22 investment fields, as presented in the interactive chart below.

4. Reading the charts

4.1 What do the "Finances planned (details)" charts show

  • The "sankey" charts present the planned EU amounts 1) by country, 2) by "Themes" (thematic objectives) and 3) by "Theme details" (intervention field codes);
  • The EU planned amounts are taken from the programmes in force at the end of "Period Covered" (i.e. 31/12/2019); the decided and spent values are taken from the financial reporting by categorisation codes provided annually by the national, regional and Interreg programmes; 
  • The eleven thematic objectives are set out in the legislation governing cohesion policy funding 2014-2020.  Several other high level "themes" are presented in the chart, in particular "Technical Assistance" and the specific allocations to "Outermost and sparsely populated" regions;
  • The label "Multi-Thematic" represents those investment envelopes (priorities) in national, regional and Interreg programmes that mix thematic objectives;
  • The detailed themes shown on the right are the 123 intervention field codes; this information system allows a clearer understanding of the specific actions or sub-sectors funded under the eleven thematic objectives. 
  • Under "Theme details" the largest individual allocations are shown for the top "intervention fields"; the category "other" is the aggregation of residual allocations to other intervention fields (there are 123 in total) that individually are smaller again that the smallest value shown. You can find those specific allocations in the open dataset.

4.2 Interacting with the charts 

  • The charts default to one of the thematic objectives funded by each fund. To see the full picture click on "Reset Selection";
  • Clicking directly on any elements in the chart leads to a filtering of the underlying data;
  • You can make combined filters within or across the three dimensions use the menu boxes provided at the top of the chart; 
  • Choose a country name in the box, use the control key to select additional countries. 
  • A similar approach can be used to select multiple "Themes" (thematic objectives) or "Theme details" (intervention fields);
  • The chart may stop filtering after several selections from different boxes.  In which case "reset selection" and try again. 
  • If you float your cursor over a chart element it shows the filtered EU value planned / decided and spent with related percentages.

4.3 What do these charts tell us?

  • We can compare under the high level themes the different choices made of detailed themes by the different countries.   
  • We can compare rates of progress in the project pipelines (decided projects) and spending by the decided projects at country level, high level themes or detailed theme.   
  • For the first time the charts compare how the detailed themes are progressing.  Often within a high level theme (i.e. Low carbon Economy) there are differnent rates of implementation for the detailed themes.  (In the ERDF chart check the rates of progress for "renewable energy: wind" compared to "renewable energy: solar") 
NB: Why are some decided amounts above 100%?  It is the practice of many programmes to award support to a volume of projects that exceeds the total planned cost. This happens generally in the last years of a programme period. They do this in order to avoid the risks 1) that some of the decided / selected projects fail to materialise or 2) that irregularities occur over the programme life time which lead to the withdrawal of support to those projects. “Over programming” in that sense is a prudent practice by programmes.

5. Cohesion Policy overview 

In April 2021 we added a new sankey chart showing the aggregation of EU funds that make up cohesion policy funds.  This chart has four variables that can be used to examine the data on finances planned and implemented. To the fund specific charts above, in the chart below we show all three funds - ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund - and the Youth Employment Initiative.

6. More information

  • Find out more about the cohesion policy categorisation system including the "intervention fields" - Categorisation data story
  • Find more #ESIFOpenData stories here.