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Effectiveness of EU cohesion spending on the environment

Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund are the European Union's main financial instruments to reduce the gap between poor and rich regions. In its new report, the European Environment Agency evaluates the effectiveness of these funds in achieving environmental goals by focusing on investments in wastewater treatment, biodiversity, and energy efficiency and renewable energy in three pilot countries: Austria, Italy and Spain.

The new EEA technical report 'Territorial cohesion — analysis of environmental aspects of the EU Cohesion Policy in selected countries' supports the European Network of Environmental Authorities' evaluation of the environmental impact of cohesion spending. In addition to specific analyses and recommendations linked to the three case studies, the report includes overall recommendations for more effective management of cohesion spending.

Most effective cohesion spending occurs when clear environmental policies and strategies are developed outside the Structural Fund programming and then fully integrated into the programmes. Some regions have encountered difficulties in spending all the resources allocated to them, in particular for innovative environmental projects such as those linking biodiversity protection and rural development. Fewer problems were seen for 'traditional' projects, such as wastewater treatment plants. To address such issues, EU-wide initiatives could be established to promote 'best spending' practices.

The report recommends that the funds be used to promote new and more sustainable mobility patterns, as well as minimising the negative impacts of transport and infrastructure projects supported. Moreover, guidelines on green public procurement should be developed to ensure that cohesion spending helps achieve the objectives of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.

Current and future challenges related to adaptation and vulnerability to climate change will also need additional attention. Here, the report highlights a shift in spending priorities. Policy goals for climate change, for example, were given a much higher priority in the spending cycle for 2007–2013 than previously.

But the report also notes that the link between spending and results has not always been easy to evaluate: for some regions, the right data were not available. The EU needs to do more to ensure and demonstrate that funds are spent effectively.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100