Understanding ERDF

The cohesion policy is the EU’s main investment policy

The European cohesion policy targets all the all towns and regions of the European Union with the aim of supporting job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth and sustainable development, and improving the quality of life of citizens.

In order to achieve these objectives and meet the various development needs in all European regions, a budget of 351.8 billion euros (nearly one third of the EU’s total budget) has been allocated to the cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 period.

The cohesion policy
and the Commission’s political priorities

The cohesion policy has a significant impact in a number of areas. Investments help to achieve many of the targets of the EU’s policies and supplement European policies, particularly in the areas of education, employment, energy, the environment, the single market, research and innovation.

The Europe 2020 Strategy

The cohesion policy provides the investment framework and the strategy required to achieve the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the European Union.

The cohesion policy promotes European solidarity

Most cohesion policy funding is focused on the least developed European regions and countries to help them catch up and reduce the remaining economic, social and territorial disparities in Europe.  This is the main solidarity tool in the EU and the policy closest to EU citizens due to its impact on our daily lives.

The EU’s five targets for 2020 are as follows:

  • Employment: 75% of 20-64 year-olds in employment, research and development (3% of the EU’s GDP will be invested in R&D).
  • Climate change and energy sustainability: a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU compared with 1990 levels; 20% of energy from renewable sources, a 20% increase in energy efficiency).
  • Education: reduction in the rate of young people leaving school early to under 10%.
  • Fight against poverty and social exclusion: at least 20 million fewer people experiencing or at risk of experiencing poverty and social exclusion.

    Every Member State has adopted its own national targets within each of these areas.

The cohesion policy has protected the cities and regions of Europe from the most extreme effects of the crisis 

The cohesion policy lessened the impact of the financial crisis that began in 2008 by supporting public investment and using EU investments flexibly, for example by reprogramming funds or increasing co-funding levels in countries such as Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal and Romania.

Moreover, the EU cohesion policy is of crucial importance at this time of sustained tax consolidation, as without it, the public investments that are cruelly lacking in less developed Member States would have dropped by a further 45% during the crisis.

Global financial impact 

The cohesion policy is a catalyst for public and private funding, not only because it obliges Member States to participate in funding by drawing on their national budgets, but also because it bolsters the confidence of investors.  The impact of the 2014-2020 cohesion policy should increase to almost 450 billion euros if we take account of national contributions and private investments.

The European Structural and Investment Funds in Belgium 

    The structural funds are divided into five thematic funds that co-fund projects.  The federated entities (Communities and Regions) draft a partnership agreement, which is a joint strategic framework created from the contributions of the different parties and containing the priorities and their specific features.

    In Belgium, the federated entities are responsible for managing the operational programmes.  On 30 October 2014, the European Commission officially adopted the Partnership Agreement with Belgium that defines the strategy for the optimal use of the available funds.  This agreement cleared the way for investments totalling 2.28 billion euros under the cohesion policy for the period 2014-2020. Belgium will also receive 551.8 million euros for rural development and 41.7 million euros for the maritime and fisheries sector.

    These EU investments will help to combat unemployment (particularly through the youth employment initiative), boost competitiveness and promote economic growth by supporting innovation, education and training in agglomerations of all sizes and in rural areas. They also make it possible to promote entrepreneurship and combat social exclusion, whilst helping to create an economy that respects the environment and uses resources efficiently.  The partnership agreement was signed with the European Commission on 29 October 2014.

    In the Brussels-Capital Region 

    In Brussels, only the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) can be used.  The ESF finances two operational programmes that support actions within Brussels; one of these is managed by Actiris and the other by the ESF Agency (with some actions financed by ESF Flanders).

    In the Brussels-Capital Region, the government decided to set up a department within the Brussels Regional Public Service specifically responsible for the management and coordination of the Fund.  Within the Directorate-General Brussels International, the ERDF Directorate is responsible for the implementation and monitoring of operational programmes.

    It supports the various project leaders, ensures the financial, budgetary and administrative monitoring of programming and also provides the first level of control of expenditure. A multidisciplinary team is in charge of this task.  The ERDF Directorate is also the point of contact with the European institutions and regional and local players, as well as with the beneficiaries of funds and counterparts in other Belgian and European regions.

    The Fund Regulations define 7-year “programming periods” for conducting projects in different European regions, plus 2 or 3 years to finalise these projects if necessary.


    Strategy of the Operational Programme 2014-2020 

      For several years, Brussels has been involved in a number of initiatives designed to meet the challenge of becoming a model in terms of sustainable development.

      This is structured around three pillars – social, economic and environmental – which each make a complementary contribution to building the Region’s sustainable future. These three pillars are central to the Region’s Regional Sustainable Development Plan.

      The programme strategy aims to improve the Region’s “urban metabolism” in order to address these challenges.  The Region considers that the more integrated management of the various resources at regional level meets the economic and environmental challenges as well as the challenge of economic inequality in Brussels. The Programme has structured its goals in such a way that it considers the city as an ecosystem that imports, metabolises and discharges different types of flow (energetic, economic, etc.).

      ERDF budget in BCR

      The ERDF’s contribution to the Brussels Programme currently stands at €68,777,508.00 (initially €94,671,959.00), and the Brussels-Capital Region has agreed to provide equivalent co-funding (for a minimum total public spend of €191,555,016).

      BCR: Operational Programme 2014-2020 

      On 3 April 2014, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region approved a new operational programme for the implementation of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in the Region for the 2014-2020 programming period, in line with the objectives set at European level.   

      On 12 May 2014, the Brussels Region issued a call for projects worth 200 million euros. The call for projects resulted in 196 projects being received between 12 May and 25 July.  The Project Evaluation Committee, comprised of experts appointed by the Government and representatives of Government members, analysed the eligibility of and opportunity presented by the projects submitted in relation to the Operational Programme’s objectives.

      Given the large number of projects submitted, the project evaluation phase took several months and the official selection by the Brussels Government was announced on 21 May 2015, with a total of 46 projects.  On 18/12/2014, the European Commission formally confirmed the adoption of the Operational Programme.


      Brussels Regional Public Service
      General Department Brussels International
      ERDF Department 

      Director: Evi Cornelis
      Communication:  Geneviève Planchard
      Place Saint-Lazare 2, 1035 Bruxelles
      Tél. : +32 (0)2 204 26 24
      e-mail : feder@sprb.brussel

      Main objectives

      The projects organised under the ERDF aim to stimulate economic growth and help achieve the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as well as to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion in urban areas.

      European financing will be granted in accordance with the region’s strengths and development needs. Based on the regional analysis, the scope for action linked to the Regulations and a recent adjustment, the programme is targeting the following priorities:

      Strenthening of research, technological development and innovation (19%), increase in the competitiveness of SMEs (38%), support for the transition to a low-carbon economy in all sectors (24%), safeguarding and protection of the environment and incentives to promote the efficient use of resources (4%), promotion of social inclusion, fight against poverty and all forms of discrimination (16%).

      Moreover, there are two underlying principles to the programme strategy:

      The first principle aims to focus its efforts, through a sector-based approach, on the development of economic sectors identified as promising in terms of employment for Brussels residents and in terms of regional economic development. The sectors in question are the media, creative sectors and tourism, resources and waste, sustainable food and hospitality, sustainable construction and renewable energy, health and personal services. The ICT sector is considered to be a cross-functional lever providing support to the other sectors identified.

      The second principle is designed to regionalise infrastructure projects in the capital’s most vulnerable areas (urban revitalisation) and in those with specific strategic development potential (development hubs identified in the urban Regional Development Plan).

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