Principles and Objectives

Cohesion Policy is the EU policy aimed at reducing development disparities between Member States’ regions, and strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Special attention is to be paid to rural areas, regions undergoing industrial transition, and regions penalised by severe permanent natural and/or demographic handicaps.

Cohesion Policy is provided for by Article 119 of the Constitution and by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon.

The Community regulatory framework setting out the objectives and financial instruments for the new 2014-2020 programming cycle is defined by Council Regulation (EU) No. 1303/2013 of 17 December 2013, laying down common provisions on European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds.

The European Union aims to concretely achieve employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy objectives by 2020.

As follows, the two major objectives pursued:

  • The Investment for growth and employment goal supported by the ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund – Within this goal, a territorial differentiation approach is applied with an impact on the financial distribution of Structural and Investment Funds resources which is referred to as “classification of regions”. Italian Regions are broken down into three categories: “less developed regions” whose GDP per capita is less than 75% of the EU-27 average; “transition regions” whose GDP per capita is 75% or more and less than 90% of the EU-27 average; and “more developed regions” whose GDP per capita is 90% or more of the EU-27 average.
  • The European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) objective, supported by the ERDF.

These specific objectives of the 2014-2020 programming operate within the five objectives the European Union aims to achieve by 2020, setting three priorities: “smart growth” (better education, more research, use of communication technologies); “sustainable growth” (a resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy); and “inclusive growth” (more and better jobs, investment in skills and training, modernisation of the labour market and welfare systems, and spreading the benefits of growth across all EU regions).

Building on these EU objectives and priorities, each Member State sets out its own national objectives within the Partnership Agreement with the European Commission. In Italy, the Partnership Agreement was adopted on 29 October 2014 and recently amended in order to include the greater EU resources allocated to Italy versus 2014, following the technical adjustment of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 in line with the evolved gross national income. The amendments to the Partnership Agreement were approved by the European Commission via Implementing Decision C(2018) 598 final dated 8 February 2018.

Thematic Objectives

The Partnership Agreement identifies 11 Thematic Objectives (TOs) in support of growth for the 2014-2020 period, itemised by the following priorities:

Smart growth

  1. 1. Strengthen research, technological development and innovation;
  1. 2. Improve access to, use and quality of ICT;
  1. 3. Promote the competitiveness of SMEs, the agricultural sector (EAFRD), and the fisheries and aquaculture sector (EMFF);

Sustainable growth

  1. 4. Support the transition to a low-carbon economy within all sectors;
  1. 5. Promote climate change adaptation, and risk prevention and management;
  1. 6. Preserve and protect the environment, and promote resource efficiency;
  1. 7. Promote sustainable transport systems, and remove bottlenecks within key network infrastructures;

Solidarity growth

  1. 8. Promote sustainable and quality employment, and support worker mobility;
  1. 9. Promote social inclusion, and combat poverty and discrimination;
  1. 10. Invest in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning;
  1. 11. Strengthen the institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders, and promote efficient public administration.

The interventions under the Investment for growth and jobs goal shall be implemented through 51 Operational Programmes co-financed by the ERDF and ESF, 21 Rural Development Plans co-financed by the EAFRD, and 1 Operational Programme co-financed by the EMFF.

European Territorial Cooperation

As regards the European Territorial Cooperation Objective, implementation in Italy is ensured through 19 Operational Programmes (OPs):

  • 4 transnational cooperation OPs: MED, Adriatic Ionian (ADRION) Central Europe, Alpine Space;
  • 4 interregional cooperation OPs: URBACT III, ESPON 2020, INTERACT III, INTERREG Europe;
  • 8 cross-border cooperation OPs: Italy-France ALCOTRA, Italy-France Maritime, Italy-Switzerland, Italy-Austria, Italy-Slovenia, Greece-Italy, Italy-Malta, Italy-Croatia;
  • 3 external cross-border cooperation OPs, one of which financed by IPA (CBC Italy-Albania-Montenegro) and two by ENI (CBC Italy-Tunisia, and CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin).

Please find here the progress data at 31 December 2018 of ECT Programmes.