The report reviews the implementation of ESI Funds (ESF, ERDF, CF, EAFRD and EMFF) until the end of 2022, building upon the annual implementation reports submitted by the Member States, as well as the evaluations done by the Commission.It also makes reference to the financial instruments adopted to face the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war and, more recently, the energy crisis. 

The European Commission has released the 2023 Summary Report on the Implementation of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) 2014-2020, which reviews the implementation of these funds (ESF, ERDF, CF, EAFRD and EMFF) until the end of 2022. Reports on the implementation of ESI Funds 2014-2020 are presented annually, following the requirement established in the legislation governing these funds. They are based on the annual implementation reports submitted by the Member States, as well as the evaluations done by the European Commission.

As such, annual reports, as well as the evaluations linked to them, are key documents to have up-to-date information on implementation, which can serve as a reference for programme adjustments during the implementation period as well as for planning the subsequent periods.

2023 report will also feed into the ongoing ex-post evaluations of Cohesion Policy Funds, which will be finalised in 2025. The Commission is also working on the mid-term evaluation of cohesion policy funds for the programming period 2021-2027. For the ERDF, the CF, the Just Transition Fund and the ESF+, the Commission staff working document will be finalised by the end of 2024.

About the 2023 annual summary report

The 2023 annual summary report has a threefold objective:

  • To present the progress made in implementing the ESI Funds in the ninth year of the ten-year implementation cycle.
  • To cover financial implementation as well as the progress made on common indicators by the end of 2022 (which is the latest complete year for which full implementation data is available).
  • It presents the latest available financial data from the end of September 2023, where available.

Besides covering ESI Funds (European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); European Social Fund (ESF); Cohesion Fund (CF); European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)), it also makes reference to the financial instruments adopted to face the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war and, more recently, the energy crisis, including the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe (REACT-EU), the Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe (CARE), the Flexible Assistance to Territories (FAST-CARE), the Supporting Affordable Energy instrument (SAFE)…

Relevant outcomes

The report shows that the ESI Funds, with their long-term planning and implementation period, have continued to offer a stable and predictable framework for public and private investment across all EU regions. The report shows steady progress in implementation with one year left for spending the 2014-2020 ESI Funds. It highlights in particular the wide range of investments under the instruments and their real impact on people, companies and regional authorities. It also shows the flexibility of the framework, which has been able to adapt, in order to provide solutions to the changing context over the programming period.

Notwithstanding the EU’s continuing readiness to assist in the recovery from the multiple crises, the ESI Funds have continued to champion investments for inclusive growth and jobs, to foster human capital development and encourage EU territorial cooperation. With around EUR 630 billion spent by Member States by end-September 2023, concrete results include:

  • Support was provided to just over 9.1 million people from marginalised groups, such as migrants, people with a foreign background and minorities, and to 4.1 million people with disabilities;
  • Around 5 million businesses were supported through projects;
  • 370 000 new jobs were created. In addition, 64.5 million participants benefited from measures to improve employment opportunities (more than 10.2 million of these participants gained a qualification);
  • The energy performance of more than 550 000 households has been improved;
  • Health services for more than 63 million people have been improved;

The report reviews the ESI Funds implementation by main policy area and theme (Smart growth, sustainable growth, inclusive growth, strengthening institutional capacity and efficient public administration, territorial and urban development, territorial cooperation/Interreg) at the end of 2022, including examples of projects carried out in each of the countries in these areas. The staff working document accompanying the report provides further details by providing an overview of the findings of the latest available evaluations of programmes supported by ESI Funds, organised by Thematic Objective. Unfortunately, the review does not go into the Specific Objectives. As such, we do not have specific information on Specific Objective (j).

Lessons on Inclusive growth (employment, social inclusion and education)

  • EU support has helped increasing employment opportunities, especially through integrated approaches, in particular to serve the needs of disadvantaged people and the most vulnerable people.

Challenges remain in terms of supporting long-term unemployed and unskilled people. Evidence points to the need to take integrated approaches, extending support to the identification of the most suitable education and training paths to follow as well as whatever social support may be needed, something that requires cooperation with the relevant social services.

  • Evaluations show that investments have increased access to and improved the quality of healthcare.

Evidence suggests that the combination of ESF support and ERDF investment in related infrastructure and equipment has been successful in many less developed regions.

  • The effectiveness of ESF support in improving the quality of education is demonstrated by several examples, including actions aimed at reducing early school leaving or increasing participants’ chances to go on to higher education.

Evidence points to the need for continued support throughout studies. It also shows that support for improving the know-how and capabilities of teachers and trainers is equally important, especially those teaching, or organising training for, the most vulnerable groups of people, facing problems of social and economic integration.

  • Positive effects are evident with regard to support for company creation and the adaptation of workers and companies to change. Most evaluations find that participants supported by ESF measures tended to remain longer in operation or were more likely to improve their job situation than those not supported.

The effect of EU support on the quality of the jobs obtained (wages, work pattern, type of contract) could be further evaluated.

Investments in inclusive growth represent around 24% of total ESI Funds funding. 179 billion has been made available for the three themes of this strand: sustainable quality employment (TO8) (€60 billion), social inclusion (TO9) (€71 billion) and education and vocational training (TO10) (€47 billion). By the end of 2022, spending amounted to €142 billion (79% of the total planned for this strand). There are differences in the financial developments realised for the different themes. Education and vocational training is the fastest progressing theme (84% of the total budget has already been spent), followed by investments in sustainable and quality employment (81% of the total planned amounts have already been spent) and finally social inclusion (76% of the total budget has already been spent, slightly below the average for the inclusive growth strand).

In the area of social inclusion, the projects selected to date represent almost €62 billion. As a result of EU support under the ERDF, the capacity of education and childcare infrastructure was expanded for more than 24 million people and 63 million people in the EU now benefit from better health services. The EAFRD has supported more than 175,000 operations for social inclusion in rural areas. It has also helped local rural communities to implement their own local development strategies (there are more than 3,650 Local Action Groups, implementing local development strategies, covering more than 60% of the EU’s rural population and bringing together public, private and civil society stakeholders in a particular area).

In education and training, €52 billion had been allocated to a number of selected projects. By the end of 2022, ESF and YEI support had reached 29.8 million people with low skills and helped 10.2 million people to obtain a qualification and 3 million to enter education or training systems.

Mention is also made of the CARE package (Cohesion’s Action for Refugees in Europe) as well as the SAFE instrument (Support for Affordable Energy) to address the consequences of high energy prices and which allows for the redirection of unspent funds so that they can be used for vulnerable households. Since its entry into force on 28 February 2023, the first modifications to the programmes have already started and more are expected to follow.

Financial implementation

The five ESI Funds make available EUR 546 billion of EU resources under the 2014-2020 programming period – bringing the total investment in the EU economy to EUR 741 billion when including the national co-financing. These amounts remain an indication of the level of commitment to the objectives because Member States may request adjustments to the planned amounts. Some of the Member States’ annual reports refer, for example, to challenges in the implementation of specific projects or with absorption capacity, which may lead to adjustments in the run-up to the end of the implementation period. At the end of 2022, 76% of the total planned amount had been spent by projects. According to the latest financial data available at the end of September 2023, 85% of the total planned investment was spent by projects. However, it is important to note that the aggregated picture presented in this report hides important variations between Member States (a detailed view of the financial implementation per Member State is included in the Annexes).

Information can be found also as regards the financial implementation by Thematic Objective, including for TOs 8, 9 and 10.

  At 31.12.2022 At 30.09.2023
Thematic Objective Total programmed amount
(EU and national)
€ million
Rate of spending Total programmed amount
(EU and national)
€ million
Rate of spending
08. Sustainable and Quality Employment 49,747.3 80 % 49,371.3 87%
09 Social Inclusion 61,981.6 75% 62,482.8 81%
10 Educational & Vocational Training 38,973.9 83% 38,742.3 91%
Grand Total (all TOs) 741 337,7 76% 741 930,7 85%

 Looking in more detail, the rate of absorption for the ERDF, CF and the ESF is almost identical to that witnessed at the end of September 2015, the final year of eligibility for the 2007-2013 programming period. The experience of previous programming periods suggests that the spending rate will continue to accelerate until the closure of programmes.

More information


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