The 2000-2006 programming period


Structural Funds are one of the financial instruments through which the European Union pursues socio-economic cohesion and development in all its regions; other instruments are the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Cohesion Fund. The joint objective is to reduce the development gaps between lagging-behind States (or regions of States) and more advanced ones.

The programming phase includes the organisation, decision-making and financing processes to implement, within a multi-year span, the joint action of the European Union and its Member States pursuant to the General Provisions on the Structural Funds (EC Regulation No. 1260/1999, Article 9).

Greater geographical and financial concentration, more decentralised management, strengthened controls and increased effectiveness characterise the 2000-2006 seven-year programming cycle.

The principles underlying the Structural Funds reform were defined at three milestones:

  • The European Commission’s Agenda 2000 Communication (1997)
  • The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997)
  • The Berlin European Council (1999).

Below the four EU funds for 2000-2006:

  • ESF: European Social Fund
  • ERDF: European Regional Development Fund
  • EAGGF: European Agriculture Fund, Guidance and Guarantee
  • FIFG: Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance.

The concentration effort to enhance measures’ effectiveness is confirmed by the reduced number of priority objectives, passed from six during 1994-1999 to three:

  • Objective 1 promotes development and structural adjustment of regions penalised by development delays
  • Objective 2 supports the socio-economic conversion of areas facing structural problems
  • Objective 3 focuses on adaptation and modernisation of EU and national policies on employment, education and training.

The Structural Funds are implemented through the following three programming documents:

  • CSF 2000-2006: Community Support Framework
  • NOPs and ROPs: National and Regional Operational Programmes
  • SPD: Single Programming Document.

Below the prospect related to Italy:

Objective 1 -> CSF, NOPs and ROPs

Objective 2 -> SPD

Objective 3 -> CSF


Law No. 208 dated 30 June 1998 allocated adequate resources to finance development interventions within underutilised areas (to be included in the Framework Programme Agreements), and appointed CIPE (Italy’s Interinstitutional Committee for Economic Planning) to decide over allocations (via own resolutions) to macro regions (South and Centre-North) and single regions.

Since 1999, each annual Finance Act has refinanced interventions to promote socio-economic rebalancing actions within depressed areas; CIPE subsequently allocated the overall resources available in the three-year period consistently with territorial destination criteria and socio-economic rebalancing aims.

The Finance Act for 2002 (Law No. 448 dated 28 December 2001) then introduced criteria and methods for allocating additional resources to implement interventions within depressed areas. In order to accelerate development mechanisms, the system undertook to privilege the financing of interventions endowed with good progress record and coherent with regional/sectoral planning within their respective subject matters.

The subsequent CIPE Resolution (No. 36/2002) for resources allocation made these objectives concrete, based upon:

  • A premiality mechanism for most virtuous entities (compliance with expenditure time schedules of interventions, laying down the times required for project-designing and execution);
  • A sanctioning mechanism, consisting in resources decommitment (loss of resources) for failure to undertake legally binding commitments within a pre-established deadline;
  • Progressive reduction of resources (due to allocation failure) whereby time schedules are not presented and/or the Entity has failed to programme 60% of the resources assigned via previous resolutions.

The above criteria were replicated over the following years by CIPE Resolutions No. 17/2003, 20/2004, and 35/2005. CIPE Resolution No. 14/2006 then introduced these criteria permanently, eliminating the need to reiterate the provisions within every annual resolution.

Regulatory sources