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European funding programmes and expected changes for 2021

The intensive preparation of the framework for the new programming period for the European funding programmes has begun and is in full speed.

This article describes the upcoming changes that will take place after 2020. Despite the fact that the details regarding the new framework are still under negotiation between Member States, a series of novel main elements have already been announced.

The current 11 priorities for the ESI funds under the Cohesion Policy will be integrated into 5 overall objectives:

  1. A smarter Europe (innovative & smart economic transformation);
  2. A greener, low-carbon Europe (including energy transition, the circular economy, climate adaptation and risk management);
  3. A more connected Europe (mobility and ICT connectivity);
  4. A more social Europe (the European Pillar of Social Rights);
  5. A Europe closer to citizens (sustainable development of urban, rural and coastal areas and local initiatives).

The thematic concentration, which requires minimum shares of regional funding on a limited number of objectives, will further be reinforced, focusing on a smart and low carbon Europe. Advanced regions having a GDP higher than the EU average, will need to commit at least 85% to objectives 1 and 2.

Moreover, the European Commission suggested the commitment of at least 25% of the overall budget on the climate objectives in the Paris Agreement & Sustainable Development Goals.

Regarding the European Funds for Regional Development (ERDF), 6% of the total budget will go to the new European Urban Initiative under objective 5, seeking to achieve sustainable urban development through local development partnerships.

Additionally, more room will be created for spending programme resources outside the programme area, as long as it benefits the programme area.

Also, the framework for Interreg programmes will be restructured to 5 cooperation levels:

  1. Cross-border cooperation (current Interreg A);
  2. Transnational/maritime cooperation (current Interreg B);
  3. Cooperation between/with EU-territory outside the European continent;
  4. Interregional exchange of experiences/knowledge (current Interreg Europe);
  5. Interregional innovative investments.

The fifth level consists an entirely new element, aimed at commercialisation and scaling up of interregional innovation projects, which are potentially able to embolden the development of European value chains (11,5% of total Interreg resources).


The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the regional Rural Development Programmes (RDP) will have to do with less resources. The framework will provide more flexibility to the Member States concerning the development and execution of their national CAP frameworks, with a few conditions:

  • At least 2% of resources will be given to young farmers;
  • 40% will be commited to environment and climate change.

For the RDP, the current 70 measures will be restricted to 8 broad investment types, in the context of which regions have the ability develop their actions according to their particular needs.


Horizon 2020 will be followed-up by Horizon Europe and will be increased almost 30% to €97 billion for 2021-2027. The programme will develop around three dominant pillars:

  • Open science inducing exchange and research through the European research Council and the MarieCurie actions;
  • Global challenges & industrial competitivenesswith a focus on research projects concerning health, inclusive and safe society, digitisation and industry, climate, energy and mobility, food and natural resources;
  • Open innovationcomprising the set-up of a European Innovation Council to embolden innovation even more.


The Commission also plans to set-up InvestEU, which is a new investment programme aiming to generate €700 billion of investments during the period 2021-2027, jointly managed by the EIB and the Commission. Programmes like COSME will be included in this instrument.


A variety of other programmes will be strengthened, in some cases in a revised structure:

  • The budget for the Erasmus programme will double to €30 billion.
  • The LIFE programme will grow from €3.5 to 5.4 billion (both the nature/environment and the climate programme).

If you are involved with European funding programmes or you are interested to do so, the European Academy can offer you help and guidance throughout all phases of your project. Building on our direct experience within the E.C. and the E.U. funding and project environment, our courses have been designed and developed from the same point of view as the policies and blueprints of the numerous funding frameworks, giving participants the opportunity to fully comprehend the European policies, methods, procedures and mechanisms.

Our new online course on PM² Project Management Methodology for EU funded projects will allow you to more successfully coordinate cooperative projects and increase their success rates by applying PM² in their proposals.  Note that PM² is not only the standard Project Management Methodology of the European Commission, but also the most preferred when it comes to the management of projects funded by the EU. Since it has been developed in order to meet the specific requirements, restrictions and culture of EU Institutions and Public Administrations, the ability to implement the methodology is essential for anyone involved with the Project Management of European and National, publicly funded or subsidised projects. 

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