Between 2014 and 2020, Greece received over 9 billion Euros from the European Union for regional and social development projects. An overview of the data

07/05/2022 -  Ornaldo Gjergji

In the period 2014-2020, the European Union allocated 9.2 billion Euros to Greece as part of its cohesion policy  - the strategy by which the EU promotes balanced and sustainable territorial development, so as to reduce the gap between the different regions of Europe.

About one third of the total EU budget is allocated to cohesion policy, so much so that in the 2014-2020  budget period, 351.8 billion Euros were allocated to all 28 member states. These resources have funded hundreds of thousands of projects across Europe, implemented through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF ), the European Social Fund (ESF ), the Cohesion Fund (CF ), and the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI ). Additional funds go to INTERREG  programmes, which aim to encourage cooperation between regions belonging to different states. Appropriate national and regional operational programmes define the priorities and activities with which to exploit the available resources.

Cohesion policy allocations depend on the level of development of each region: less developed regions - those where GDP per capita is less than 75% of the EU average - receive proportionately much more funds than regions considered to be in transition or more developed - Greece features regions in all categories.

The priorities of the cohesion funds in Greece

Of the roughly 9.2 billion Euros Greece received in the 2014-2020 budget period, more than half was from the European Regional Development Fund.

The thematic priority to which most of the cohesion funds were allocated in Greece is competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, with almost one third of the total resources.

The distribution of cohesion funds on the territory

Of the approximately 9.2 billion Euros disbursed to Greece, 8.9 were accounted for at the NUTS 3 regional level, and it is therefore possible to see in more detail how they were distributed throughout the territory.

In absolute terms, the region of Attica received the highest share of cohesion funds, with almost 2.2 billion Euros in the period 2014-2020, followed by Macedonia with 1.88.

However, the absolute values can be misleading: the same investment can make a greater or lesser difference on the territory depending on the size and level of each economy. To better grasp the extent of European investments in Greece, we can therefore compare the cohesion funds to the GDP produced by each region in 2014. From this point of view we can see how the Epirus region attracted more resources in relative terms, with about 130,000 Euros per million Euros of GDP produced, while Attica stops at 26,000.

In a similar way, we can compare the cohesion funds destined for each region to the number of inhabitants and note a similar dynamic, with Epirus at about 1,500 Euros per inhabitant, attracting more resources in relative terms.

The ability to absorb the allocated funds

These data refer to the cohesion funds that were actually disbursed in the 2014-2020 period. However, this is only a part of what the European Union had initially allocated for Greece: as in other cases, countries and regions are not always able to absorb all the available funds. Often there is no adequate capacity for planning, spending, or managing approved projects - but European funds are disbursed only on the basis of very detailed evidence.

In Greece there was great heterogeneity in terms of ability to spend the funds made available. Only central Greece managed to obtain at least half of the funds, while a little more than a third of what was allocated to many other regions was disbursed.

Beyond the performance of individual regions, the ability to absorb European funds also depends on the thematic area: some investment priority axes manage to be more exploited than others. For example, more than two thirds of resources for the creation of sustainable and quality jobs were spent, as opposed to only 28.4% for the environment and resource efficiency.

The data

This table shows in more detail the data on cohesion projects in Greece in the period 2014-2020, aggregated by region, priority axis, and fund.