Each region in Europe has its own idiosyncrasies and is facing individual challenges for the future. Reinforcing strengths, alleviating weaknesses - and thereby reducing the imbalance between regions: This is the aim of Europe’s cohesion policy. An important part of this is the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRD - or EFRE in German). The EFRE supports under-developed regions with structural problems.
In NRW, it is used in particular to finance measures which contribute to making businesses competitive and creating jobs in small and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, the EFRE supports measures which advance innovations, research and technological development, as well as those which contribute to climate protection. It also supports local communities in NRW in their effort to integrate disadvantaged groups and to create a good living environment in its cities and districts.
Therefore, the focus is on a stronger overall economic growth and a better quality of life for all citizens - especially since in a community like the EU, all regions are connected with each other. Hence the term “cohesion policy”.
Approximately 352 billion euro are designated for the European cohesion policy in the period between 2014 - 2020. This is almost a third of the entire EU budget. The long-term goal is achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth within the EU.
Both the European fund for regional development and the cohesion policy support the implementation of the “Europe 2020” strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Central aspects of the strategy include the increase of prosperity and productivity. This involves areas of research and innovation, the competitiveness of SMEs, the promotion of education and training, the reduction of poverty, as well as combating climate change and overcoming energy dependency.
The chances for achieving these goals are good because the European programs are already taking effect: In the past five years, the EU cohesion policy and its funding programs have created more than 600,000 jobs, and given 15 million people greater opportunities on the job market by offering improved professional education programs. Moreover, they have promoted 200,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as 61,000 research projects.