European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds

Cohesion and regional policies finance interventions through the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds, and namely:

  • The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – aims to consolidate regional economic and social cohesion by investing in growth-enhancing sectors to improve competitiveness and create jobs. The ERDF also finances cross-border cooperation projects.
  • The European Social Fund (ESF) – invests in people, paying special attention to improving training and employment opportunities. It also aims to help disadvantaged people at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion.
  • The Cohesion Fund – invests in green growth and sustainable development and improves connectivity in Member States with GDPs below 90% of the EU-27 average.

The above Funds are complemented with the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), implemented through the regional Rural Development Programme (RDP), and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which supports fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing and helps coastal communities in diversifying their economies.


Within the 2014-2020 cycle, the ESI funds are aimed at only two objectives, namely:

  • The “Investment for growth and jobs” objective, aimed at the whole EU, grading the investment intensity according to whether they are less developed regions (average GDP per capita below 75% of the EU average), more developed regions (average GDP per capita above 90% of the EU average) or transition regions (average GDP per capita between 75 and 90% of the EU average); and
  • The “European Territorial Cooperation” objective, which will intervene within specific areas located along internal and external EU borders or transnational borders, covering large parts of the European territory and in some cases coinciding with the territories addressed by European macro-regional strategies.

ERDF investments will finance all 11 Thematic Objectives identified in the Partnership Agreement, although objectives 1 to 4 are the main investment priorities. The ESF main priorities are Objectives 8 to 11, yet the Fund also finances Objectives 1 to 4. The Cohesion Fund finances Objectives 4 to 7 and 11.


I fondi strutturali e di investimento europei 2014-2020 – Updated at 28 March 2020


Special Economic Zones (SEZs)

Decree-Law No. 91/2017 converted into Law No. 123 dated 3 Aug. 2017, aimed at promoting economic growth in Southern Italy, introduced two main initiatives:

  1. The measure supporting youth entrepreneurship in Southern Italy;
  1. The new concept of Special Economic Zone (SEZ), already widespread abroad.


Measures to support youth entrepreneurship in Southern Italy

Decree-Law No. 91/2017 converted by Law No. 123/2017 introduced several new measures to support entrepreneurship and training.

The initiative “Resto al Sud” (literally “I’ll stay in the South”) promotes new entrepreneurial activities by young people between 18 and 35 years in Southern Regions. The sectors addressed are: craftsmanship, industry, fisheries, aquaculture, and services, including tourism.

Special Economic Zones

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are geographical areas regulated by economic legislation other than in the rest of the Country. SEZs are territorially defined areas located within the borders of the State, and include areas not territorially adjacent to them (provided that they have a strategic functional economic link) and areas economically linked to them and including at least one port area connected to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) (as per Regulation (EU) No. 1315 of 11 Dec. 2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council).

The aim is to test new forms of governance also via simplified administrative procedures, develop businesses already set up or going to be established, and boost ports’ competitiveness in Southern Regions, to fully seize the development potential offered by the new silk route. This measure aims to enhance the value of abandoned or uncultivated land and abandoned property, based on an experimental procedure, with the aim of developing unutilised properties in Southern Italy.

SEZs will therefore be granted additional tax benefits, besides the tax credit applied in Southern Italy. National resources from the 2014-2020 FSC will be allocated to the measure.

In implementation of the “Mezzogiorno Decree”, a Prime Minister Decree was approved which defines the procedures for establishing a SEZ, its duration, and general criteria for area identification, definition, and access.