The Structural Funds are made up of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Together with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund make up the great bulk of EU funding, and the majority of total EU spending.
Apart from funds under the Cohesion policy, there are other funds that have the potential to contribute to the regional development. These are:
The Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund make up one of the largest items of the budget of the European Union.
It is up to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to define the tasks, priority objectives and the organisation of the Structural Funds (the Regional Policy framework), through the ordinary legislative procedure and consulting the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions (leading to the publication of Regulations).
Sections below present information about objectives that have been defined for the programming period, which runs from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2013. The overall budget for this period is €347bn: €201bn for the European Regional Development Fund, €76bn for the European Social Fund, and €70bn for the Cohesion Fund. The objectives setup shapes the main focus of interventions (eligible activities and costs) and the overall allocations of funds from the EU budget.
The key indicator for the division of regions under singular objectives is the Gross National Product per capita (GNP p.c.) level. This is subject to criticism based on the fact that GDP p.c. is unable to reflect the real socio-economic reality of regions. Some groups (e.g. Beyond GDP) and organisations propose the creation of a set of alternative indicators that could substitute the GDP and its derivates.