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European Social Fund (ESF)

The European Social Fund (ESF) is one of the EU's 5 Structural and Investment Funds and serves as one of its main tools to promote jobs & social inclusion, fight poverty and promote education, training & the acquisition of life-long skills.

The ESF has existed since the original 1957 treaty (Treaty of Rome) setting up the then European Economic Community. It now has its legal basis in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Articles 162-164, 174, 175, 177 & 178).

For the 2014-2020 period, with an overall budget of €74 billion, the ESF co-funds national or regional operational programmes which run for the 7-year duration (Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013). These programmes are developed by EU countries themselves and then approved by a Commission decision.