The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) were responsible for a total investment of €731 billion between 2014-2020, with €535 billion of this amount funded by the EU.
This investment was aimed at promoting socio-economic convergence, territorial cohesion, Social Europe, and a smooth green and digital transition, as outlined in the 2022 Summary Report on the Implementation of the ESI Funds, which was adopted by the Commission.
By the end of 2021, the ESI Funds had supported more than 4 million small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and 55.2 million individuals through employment, social inclusion, or skills and education initiatives. Additionally, energy production capacity increased by over 3,600 megawatt hours per year from renewable resources, while the primary energy consumption of public buildings decreased by 2.6 terawatt hours per year, equivalent to the electricity consumption of approximately 720,000 households for a year.
Moreover, the agricultural sector and rural SMEs became more competitive and created job opportunities in rural areas with the support of 2.3 million projects. In the fishing and aquaculture sector, 44,000 jobs were preserved, and more than 6,000 new jobs were generated.
The ESI Funds also played a crucial role in providing support to member states and regions in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences. Temporary flexibilities were introduced into Cohesion Policy, allowing member states to allocate unspent Cohesion Policy funds to priority areas such as healthcare, short-time work schemes, and support for SMEs.
ESI Funds were also utilized to address the emerging needs of medical institutions, researchers, business owners, employees, and vulnerable individuals during the pandemic. Additionally, millions of people with low skills were trained, with many obtaining formal qualifications with the help of ESI funds.
Finally, the ESI Funds were instrumental in promoting energy efficiency measures, renewables, building renovation, and market integration as key drivers of the EU's energy security. Cohesion Policy helped member states and regions combat energy poverty while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating sustainable employment opportunities in the construction and building sector.