Objectives of EU Structural Funding
The contractually anchored task of contributing to economic and social solidarity in Europe was put into concrete terms in three objectives for the funding period 2007-2013: convergence, regional competitiveness and employment, and European Territorial Cooperation.
1) The objective "convergence" refers to the development and structural adjustments of regions whose development is lagging behind. It concerns regions whose per capita GDP is less than 75% of the average GDP in the EU (based on EU-25) and the so-called regions in transition. Regions in transition are those with a per capita GDP below 82.19% of the average GDP in the EU (based on EU-25). Eligible for funding under this objective in Germany in the 2007-2013 programming period are all of the new Länder plus the Lüneburg region (as a transitional region) in Lower Saxony.
2) The objective "regional competitiveness and employment" concerns all other areas of the EU independent of structural problems. The idea is to provide those regions that are not eligible under the "convergence" goal with funding to enable them to counter radical economic and social changes and to meet the challenges of globalization and make the transition to knowledge-based societies. Eligible for funding under this objective in Germany are all of the old Länder (excluding the Lüneburg region in Lower Saxony).
3) The objective "European Territorial Cooperation" (ETC) provides ERDF funding to cooperative activities among European regions. These funds are geared towards:
- cross-border cooperation activities (between the border regions of at least two Member States);
- transnational cooperation activities (between regions of Member States in larger geographical areas, e. g. all Baltic Sea regions, all Alpine regions, etc.); and
- interregional cooperation activities throughout the EU.
Funding is provided on the basis of programmes that are created by EU Member States and EU neighbouring countries and approved of by the European Commission. The Federal Republic of Germany takes part in 22 of these funding programmes. The main focus is cross-national cooperation programmes involving border regions (e. g. Bavaria-Czech Republic, Brandenburg-Poland).
National Strategic Reference Framework
EU structural policy introduced a new instrument for the first time in the 2007-2013 programming period: the "National Strategic Reference Framework" (NSRF). This document is intended to ensure that funding out of the EU Structural Fund conforms to the strategical goals and priorities of EU cohesion policy. In addition to a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the funded areas, the NSRF also outlines Germany's funding strategy. On the national level it therefore functions as a frame of reference for the Länder for designing their funding programmes (=operational programmes - OPs). Finally, the National Strategic Reference Framework is to operate as the link to the National Reform Programme.
Financial Framework for EU Structural Funding
For all EU Member States in the 2007-2013 period, a total of 346 billion euros were earmarked for structural policy (all figures refer to current prices). Of this, Germany received around 26.3 billion euros in EU structural funding.
These funds were allocated as follows:
- convergence regions: around 16.1 billion euros (around 15.3 billion euros for the new Länder and approximately 799 million euros for Lüneburg);
- all other regions eligible under the "regional competitiveness and employment" objective: around 9.4 billion euros (all of the old Länder minus Lüneburg);
- "European Territorial Cooperation" objective: around 851 million euros.