At the end of December 2021, the European Commission published the 2021 Summary Report on the Implementation of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds), which presents the evolution in the financial implementation of the ESI Funds of the 2014-2020 period up to the end of 2020.
With a total investment of EUR 640 billion at the end of 2020, which includes EUR 461 billion of EU financing, the ESI Funds target several crucial policy objectives for the future of Europe. These policy objectives include the goal to foster lasting socio-economic convergence, a smooth green and digital transition, resilience, and territorial cohesion. By the end of 2020, Member States had already received more than 55% of the funds. The spending rate accelerated especially for the digital economy, small and medium sized enterprises, climate action and social investments.
The concrete achievements of the ESI funds by the end of 2020 include the support of 3 million enterprises with additional working capital, creating 236 500 new jobs, improving the energy efficiency of more than 359,000 households, helping 45 million people with employment, social inclusion or education actions, supporting over 2 million projects in the agricultural sector and rural areas, maintaining 31,500 jobs and creating 4,000 new jobs in the maritime and fisheries sector.
Furthermore, the ESI funds adapted successfully to needs during the COVID-19 crisis, and they have been one of the main instruments in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative packages, Member States were given the possibility to re-allocate unspent Cohesion policy funds to priority areas such as healthcare, short-time work schemes and support to small and medium-sized enterprises. The total value of the cohesion policy support to ease the effects of the pandemic reached EUR 21.3 billion.
With 3 more years of 2014-2020 investment under cohesion policy still to be completed and reported, the ESI Funds are steadily progressing towards their objectives, as shown by the 2020 data. Looking ahead, the 2022 reporting cycle will provide important insights on progress in relation to the original objectives. It should also provide a more comprehensive view on the progress in the execution of the COVID-19 measures supported by the funds. At the same time, the 2021-2027 programs will soon be adopted. They are expected to be launched in 2022 with significant innovations, while accompanied by additional extraordinary resources put in place.