ESI Funds:  a guide to
EU investment progress


Position at the end of 2020:
  • 358 billion in cumulative investment spending 2014-2020 was reported in total cost (EU and National share), representing 56% out of the more than 640 billion which was then planned by 2023.
  • The annual total spending reported in 2020 was 93.5 billion, the highest annual amount reported so far in the 2014-2020 period;
  • The high level of 2020 spending was partly as a result of the flexibility provided by the Coronavirus Response Investment initiatives (CRII and CRII+). Under those initiatives €21 billion of cohesion policy resources (ERDF + ESF) was reallocated to where it was most needed – support to the healthcare sector, SMEs and vulnerable population groups.  Liquidity was further facilitated by making it possible for programmes to opt for a 100% EU co-financing rate (find out more about CRII/CRII+ ).
Main developments during in 2021
  • Additional resources from NEXTGenerationEU were added to the 2014-2020 programmes in 2021. Those new EU resources are significant. Under the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU) new resources of 37.8 billion (out of a total of €50.6 billion) were allocated by mid December 2021 under cohesion policy 2014-2020 programmes. Under Rural Development an additional EUR 33.5 billion of EU funding was added to the 2014-2020 EAFRD programmes. The additional of this new EU financing dilutes the % rates of total spending.
  • Total ESIF spending reported by 30 September was EUR 411 billion compared to EUR 358 by the end of 2020.  The additional spending of EUR 53.4 billion between 1 January 2021 and 30 September 2021 was reported by cohesion policy programmes.  

1. Background

The European Structural and Investments Funds for 2014-2020 include the following Funds
  • The cohesion policy funds supporting the EU policy for supporting economic social and territorial catching up (reducing disparities): 
    • European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
    • European Social Fund (ESF, including the Youth Employment Initiative)
    • and the Cohesion Fund (CF) 
  • The European Agricultural Fund For Rural Development (EAFRD)
  • The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
The ESI Funds involve over 530 investment programmes in all EU Member States. The current investment programmes run over 10 years from 2014 until end 2023, covering multiple investment themes.
The objective of the ESIF Open Data platform is to make the allocation and use of the investment financing more transparent. The source of information on investment progress by theme, country, programme and fund is the dataset on "2014-2020 ESIF finances implemented". This data story explains the way we use charts as investment information maps and we explain how to read these "information maps". 

2. Tracking investment progress

All the charts we present on investment progress contain information on three variables:
  • Planned: Total budget of the programme, of the fund of for the theme. It represents the total planned investment volume including EU and national financing. The total can change over time within the rules on "reprogramming". 
  • Decided: The total financial resources allocated to decided (selected) projects (the value of the project pipeline decided at a specific date). 
  • Spent: The total investment expenditure reported to the programme managers by the selected / decided projects.

2.1 Time series : progress over time

The time series chart pictured below appears on all pages - EU overview, theme, country, programme and fund. It shows annual snapshots displaying how the total planned investments is translated into decided projects (the project pipeline) and how the investments are then delivered through investment expenditure. 

What does the time series chart tell us?

  • Spending follows after decisions on the selection of projects 
  • In this 10 year investment cycle the decision on project selection were slow to start, but by 2016 selection had picked up, and doubled again during 2017. 
  • Slow initial selection was not good news initially for spending but, by 2018, investment spending had picked up significantly. 

Reading the time series chart

Key elements in the timeseries charts (as they appear on the are platform link) include the following elements: 
  1. Links to i) the source data and ii) code to allow users to export/reuse/embed the chart;
  2. The legend for the elements in the chart.
    (On the website the legends can be use to focus on one variable or more); 
  3. The "Period covered" show the latest reference date for the data presented (the cutoff date the data refers to, i.e. 31/12/202020);
  4. The "Refresh date" shows when the data was last updated.

2.2 Comparing progress by fund 

Behind the overall EU investment progress the ESI funds show different rates of progress for decided and spending volumes.   On the theme and country pages you find filtered versions of this chart including the relevant funds. 
What does the chart tell us?
  • The different funds have variable rates of decided investment and expenditure over time.
  • For instance, the Cohesion Fund by mid-2019 was over 90% selection rate, whereas the spending rate at 31% was lower that the EU rate of 33%.
  • The Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) had the highest spending rate - over 50%. This is not a surprise as it was intended that the YEI be "front loaded" (i.e. delivered in the first years of the investment period). 
the chart footnotes show that the decided data for EMFF and EAFRD is only available once a year. This in part explains some of the differences in decided rates for these funds.
2. In the case of the EMFF the programmes were adopted late in 2015, on average later than programmes under other ESI funds. 

2.3 Comparing progress by country 

These charts "by country"allow to benchmark and compare investment progress by the different countries.  The chart below is initially ordered in relation to the rate of investments decided (selection) in the countries.   There are strong differences in relation to investment performance.   The EU benchmark for the decided rate is shown by the broken grey line. 

Live on the #ESIFOpenData site you can also deselect the planned and decided value to see the ranking of countries in terms of investment spending.  

3. The animated timeseries scatterplot

The animated scatterplot charts show the relationships between planned, decided and selected over time.
A detailed guide to how to use and read the scatterplots (also available by fund and theme) is here.  

4. More information 


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