The Structural and Investment Funds are divided into five main funding instruments: 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). The aim is to reduce the significant economic, social and territorial disparities that exist between Europe’s regions. They are the main source of investment at EU level to help Member States to make the structural changes necessary to restore and increase growth and ensure a job rich recovery while ensuring sustainable development. All investments support the delivery of the EU 2020 Strategy to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

In particular, the ERDF, ESF and CF are applicable to addressing health inequalities and are further detailed below.

European Regional Development Fund

The ERDF supports projects addressing regional development, economic change, enhanced competitiveness and territorial co-operation. Funding priorities include modernising economic structures, creating sustainable jobs and economic growth, research and innovation, environmental protection and risk prevention.

The ERDF aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions.

  • All regionscan benefit from the ERDF.
  • ERDF mainly supports ‘hard’ projects such as investments in infrastructure
  • The ERDF is administered by theDirectorate General Regional Policy (DG REGIO) of the European Commission
  • It has a strong focus on four key priority areas: Research and Innovation, the Digital Economy, SME competitiveness and the Low Carbon Economy.

The ERDF resources allocated to these priorities will depend on the category of region.

  • In more developed regions, at least 80 % of funds must focus on at least two of these priorities.
  • In transition regions, this focus is for 60 % of the funds.
  • This is 50 % in less developed regions.

Budget: EUR 279 billion (More Data on ERDF)

European Social Fund

The ESF aims to improve living standards, and is considered to be the fund that invests in people through education, training, and employment. The ESF focuses on four key areas: increasing the adaptability of workers and enterprises, enhancing access to employment and participation in the labour market, reinforcing social inclusion by combating discrimination and facilitating access to the labour market for disadvantaged people, and promoting partnership for reform in the fields of employment and inclusion. The ESF aims to improve the situation of the most vulnerable people at risk of poverty.

For the 2014-2020 period, the ESF will focus on four of the cohesion policy’s thematic objectives:

  • All regionscan benefit from the ESF.
  • It helps people find employment or create businesses, supports disadvantaged groups, improves education, and makes public services more efficient
  • ESF mainly supports ‘soft’ projects such as investments in skills and training
  • The ESF is administered by theDirectorate General Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion (DG EMPL) of the European Commission

Budget: EUR 120 billion (More Data on ESF)

Cohesion Fund

The Cohesion Fund aims to reduce economic and social disparities and to promote sustainable development, particularly in the fields of trans-European transport networks and environment. The CF applies to the poorer regions, as only those Member States with a Gross National Income (GNI) of less than 90% of the EU average can apply for Cohesion Funding. It covers 15 Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). It is now subject to the same rules of programming, management and monitoring as the ERDF and ESF though the Common Provisions Regulation.

Budget: EUR 75 billion (More Data on CF)


This information is up-to-date as of August 2017.

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