The cohesion policy funds are financial tools to implement the Cohesion Policy or EU Regional Policy. They aim to reduce regional disparities in terms of economic development and are a key instrument to achieve the Lisbon Strategy objectives to create growth and jobs. For the period 2007-2013, the structural funds represent € 347 billion, one third of the EU budget.
In June 2011, the European Commission adopted its proposals for the 2014-2020 multi-annual financial framework. The financial framework states that cohesion policy should remain essential elements because of their pivotal role in delivering the Europe 2020 strategy. It proposes to allocate € 376 billion for cohesion policy. The Commission also advises that structural policies should concentrate funding on a smaller number of priorities strongly linked to the Europe 2020 strategy.
On 6 October 2011, the Commission published its proposals for regulations covering all structural funding instruments which will provide the basis for the cohesion policy 2014-2020. The regulatory package includes an overarching regulation governing the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) , the Cohesion Funds, and 2 other funds (EARF and EMFF) that will increase coherence amongst the instruments. The common strategic framework (CSF) will be established for all these funds to ensure delivering common objectives.
The Commission proposal is currently being discussed in the European Parliament and the Council, with a view to adoption before the end of 2013.