Record of €32.9 billion in payments to Member States from 2011 cohesion policy budget

The data on EU structural funds in 2011 published by the European Commission, show that the effective use of these funds gathered pace in 2011. EU structural funds in 2011 helped to further the Single Market through investments in a broad range of strategic and growth-enhancing areas, including broadband connections, research and development infrastructure, innovation projects, new Small- and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and education.

The European Commission published its data for the Cohesion Payments and they show that the EU's structural funds are an ever more valuable source of growth-enhancing investment especially in the regions that need it most. According to the Commission, the effective use of these funds gathered pace in 2011, with payments to Member States from last year's cohesion policy budget hitting a record €32.9 billion, an 8% increase on the €30.5 billion paid out in 2010. MEPs recently stressed that the reform negotiations on cohesion policy should be completed by the end of 2012.

The European Commission has also taken measures to prioritise growth-enhancing investments. For example, temporary "top-up" payments worth €374 million were made in 2011 to Greece and Romania, following the entry into force of new rules to support the economies of Member States experiencing difficulties in terms of financial stability. On the other hand, the Commission has also called on Member States to use €22 billions of European Social Fund money not yet committed to projects to improve job opportunities for young people.

The average payment rate for all three funds (European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund and Cohesion Fund) in the EU was 33.4% of the amounts allocated for the 2007-2013 period, at the end of 2011. Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn underlined that the figures for 2011 indicate the implementation of the policy during this funding period has gathered pace. The funds ensure a steady flow of investment in these difficult times.