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Cohesion and Regional Policy

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Launched in 1988 following the Single European Act, the policy of economic, social and regional cohesion is today the second largest spending item of the European budget – around 35%. It benefits all European citizens, by co-financing action to promote human development, infrastructure creation and modernisation, job-creating investment in small and medium-sized businesses, and support for R&D and local development. However, the largest part (80%) of the subsidies passing through the structural funds is destined for the EU’s least developed regions, serving the objective of regional cohesion.

At each major stage of European integration – be it the accession of Spain and Portugal in 1986 or the enlargements to 12 new countries in 2004 and 2007, or a step forward in economic integration such as the single market or economic and monetary union – Europe’s leaders have sought to counterbalance the negative impacts on the most fragile groups and regions. The cohesion policy is not a straightforward mechanism for redistribution between countries and regions. It rather intends to guide the use of financial transfers so as to further the twin objectives of regional development and catching-up.

The Jacques Delors Institute is an active participant in the debate over the future of cohesion policy and its financing. It stresses the importance of political ambition in the policy, as an instrument for promoting European integration. The Jacques Delors Institute regularly asserts its support for the founding principles of cohesion policy, where solidarity, responsibility and cooperation play a major role, as does innovation – social, regional and political.

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