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Economic, social and territorial cohesion

From the outset, a key European Union (EU) objective has been to reduce the economic and social disparities between its very diverse regions by means of its cohesion policy. The Lisbon Treaty added a third dimension: territorial cohesion.

It uses EU funds to assist all EU Member States and regions in their economic and social development and to address the specific problems of categories of regions like:

  • regions with severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps (e.g. regions with a very low population density, islands, or cross-border or mountain regions);
  • areas affected by the green and digital transitions; and
  • rural areas.

Funding for cohesion purposes is generally managed in cooperation between the European Commission and the national or regional authorities. It is focused on the EU priorities and is made available primarily from:

  • the European Regional Development Fund
  • the European Social Fund
  • the European Cohesion Fund
  • the Just Transition Fund.

Other EU funds that support cohesion through their investments are:

  • the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
  • the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development
  • the European Investment Bank.

Articles 174-178 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU provide the legal basis for EU cohesion policy.