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Regional development and cohesion policy beyond 2020: questions and answers

Regional development and cohesion policy beyond 2020: questions and answers

The codes for RIS3 in the new cohesion policy

Brussels, 29 May 2018

The European Commission has presented today its proposals for modernising cohesion policy. The aim is to increase economic and social convergence, to help regions to take full advantage of globalisation and to equip them with the right tools for strong and sustainable growth. All regions will continue to be eligible for funding under the cohesion policy in Europe, always according to three categories: the least developed regions, the regions in transition and the most developed regions.

What are the new investment priorities of Cohesion Policy?

From 11 'thematic objectives' in the 2014-2020 period, the new Cohesion Policy will now focus its resources on 5 policy objectives, where the EU is best placed to deliver:

1)  a Smarter Europe, through innovation, digitisation, economic transformation and support to small and medium-sized businesses;

2)  a Greener, carbon free Europe, implementing the Paris Agreement and investing in energy transition, renewables and the fight against climate change;

3)  a more Connected Europe, with strategic transport and digital networks;

4)  a more Social Europe, delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights and supporting quality employment, education, skills, social inclusion and equal access to healthcare;

5)  a Europe closer to citizens, by supporting locally-led development strategies and sustainable urban development across the EU.

The majority of European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund investments will be geared towards the first two objectives: a Smarter Europe and a Greener Europe.  Details of the specific objectives within each of these priorities can be found in Article 2 of the Proposal for a Regulation on the ERDF and on the Cohesion Fund.  It is also of particular interest to review and take note of the scoreboards proposed by the Commission as a development of Article 7 of this Proposal for a Regulation in Annexes  1 (common output and result indicators) and 2 (performance indicators) of this Communication.. 

How will the funds be allocated?

The Cohesion Policy allocation system is slightly modified to focus further resources in less developed Member States and give more financial support to regions facing industrial transition. It is still predominantly based on GDP per capita (80%) but also includes new criteria for all categories of regions – youth unemployment, low education level, climate change and the reception and integration of migrants – in order to better reflect the socio-economic situation on the ground. Finally, the Commission proposes a 'safety net' to avoid too abrupt changes in Member States' allocations.

What are the new enabling conditions?

The 'enabling conditions' continue the approach of the ex-ante conditionalities introduced for the 2014-2020 funding period. There are some 20 conditions proposed, which correspond to roughly half of the number of conditionalities in the previous period. They cover similar thematic areas as in 2014-2020, like energy efficiency, and still include smart specialisation strategies to guide investments in research and innovation.

There are also four horizontal enabling conditions in the area of public procurement, state aid and in relation to the application of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the United Nations Convention on Persons with Disabilities.

The procedures linked to the enabling conditions are similar but made simpler; for example there is no obligatory action plan to be submitted in case of non-fulfilment. However, Member States won't be able to send payment claims to the Commission for EU-funded projects related to unfulfilled preconditions. Their fulfilment needs to be respected throughout the period.

El artículo 11 de la propuesta de Reglamento de los Fondos Estructurales COM(2018) 375 detalla las características de estas condiciones habilitadoras, y remite al Anexo IV de esta Comunicación para más información sobre las condiciones temáticas.


The enabling condition for smart specialisation

Article 11 of the proposed Structural Funds Regulation COM(2018) 375 details the characteristics of these enabling conditions and refers to Annex IV of this Communication for further information on the thematic conditions:

Policy Objective Specific Objective Name of enabling condition Fulfilment criteria for the enabling condition

1. A smarter Europe 
by promoting innovative and
smart economic transformation


All specific objectives under this policy objectives.

Good governance of national or regional smart specialisation strategy

Smart specialisation strategy(ies) shall be supported by:

1.Up-to-date analysis of bottlenecks for innovation diffusion, including digitalisation

2.Existence of competent regional / national institution or body, responsible for the management of the smart specialisation strategy

3.Monitoring and evaluation tools to measure performance towards the objectives of the strategy

4.Effective functioning of entrepreneurial discovery process

5.Actions necessary to improve national or regional research and innovation systems

6.Actions to manage industrial transition

7.Measures for international collaboration


Answers to many more questions concerning the future structural funds and cohesion policy can be found in the FAQ and the legal texts and factsheets published by the European Commission (see below).