European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds)
By the autumn of 2016, almost €130 billion – 20% of the total ESI Funds envelope – had been invested in small businesses, research, broadband, energy efficiency and thousands of other projects focusing on the priorities of the EU's growth and jobs strategy.
What are ESI Funds?
The "European Structural and Investment Funds" or "ESI Funds" is a common designation for five European funds: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the Cohesion Fund (CF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which operate under a common framework (i.e. the CPR) as well as under fund-specific regulations.
What are the main features of ESI Funds?
ESI Funds are some €450 billion of EU funding over the 2014-2020 programming period, which are allocated to Member States and delivered through nationally co-financed multiannual programmes to develop and support actions related to the key Union priorities of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in line with the objectives of each Fund. National co-financing constitutes an integral and obligatory part of these programme resources and is covered by a common set of rules applicable to all ESI Funds and further defined in the fund-specific provisions.
ESI Funds programmes are approved by the Commission and implemented by Member States and their regions under shared management. The ultimate decision therefore lies with managing authorities in Member States in terms of where and how funds are invested at project level within the framework of the relevant programme: setting out the specific objectives, results to be achieved and types of action to deliver them.
Technical assistance is available both at programme level, where it can be used for a range of programme and project support activities, as well as at the initiative of the Commission, where it is used for more general tasks to support preparation, monitoring, administration and evaluation, as well as audit and control measures which are necessary to implement the CPR.
As of the end of 2015, the majority of the ESI Funds programmes have been adopted and implementation has started.
What are the key sectors of ESI Funds programme support and in what form do they come?
ESI Funds programmes support focuses on 11 thematic objectives: 1) Research and
innovation, 2) Information and communications technology (ICT), 3) SME competitiveness, 4) Low carbon economy, 5) Climate change adaptation and risk management, 6) Environment and resource efficiency, 7) Sustainable transport and network bottlenecks, 8) Employment and labour mobility, 9) Social inclusion and poverty, 10) Education and 11) Institutional capacity.
ESI Funds programme support is mainly delivered either in the form of grants or through financial instruments in the form of loans, guarantees and equity investments.
Who is eligible for ESI Funds programme support and how is ESI Funds programme support decided?
The beneficiaries of ESI Funds programme grant support could be public or private bodies or even a natural person. The type of beneficiaries and projects which can be supported derives from the applicable fund-specific regulation and the approved programme being ultimately reflected in the programme implementation. The target final recipients of financial instruments under ESI Funds programmes are identified in the relevant ex-ante assessment of the financial instrument and depend on the objectives of the programme and the agreed strategy. ESI Funds programme support has to comply with the applicable law (including the CPR, fund-specific provisions, national legislation, as well as state aid and public procurement rules).
In case of grants, the selection of projects is based on a criteria agreed in the respective ESI Funds programme monitoring committee. The programme support is decided by the Managing Authority or the relevant intermediate body. In case of financial instruments, the programme support is contributed by the managing authority to a financial instrument and then subsequently transferred through a financial intermediary to the selected final recipients.
Where do ESI Funds programme supported operations take place?
ESI Funds programme supported operations take place in the area of the relevant programme. The possibility of supporting operations outside of the programme area is very limited and linked to certain specific conditions.