Member States absorb funding when they receive a payment from the EU budget as co-financing towards eligible projects. Around a third of the EU budget is set aside for the Cohesion area.
We examined whether the Commission’s and Member States’ actions were effective in absorbing funding from the ERDF, ESF and CF during the 2007-2013 programme period making comparisons with the 2000-2006 and 2014-2020 programme periods.
We found that implementation started slowly in the 2007-2013 programme period due to inter alia late adoption of the legislative framework, programming documents (OPs and overlap of programme periods. Whereas the Commission monitored the absorption of funds, only around 13 months before the end of the eligibility period did it put in place a Task Force to assist Member States with poorly absorbing OPs. The measures taken led to a marked increase in absorption, however some measures focussed mainly on absorption and compliance with rules with little consideration for results. In particular, frequent revisions of OPs call into question the soundness of the analyses underlying the programming process and the ability to achieve the OP and Cohesion policy objectives.