About the ESI Funds

About the ESI Funds

The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are financial instruments through which the EU invests in local and regional projects that contribute to job creation and a sustainable and healthy European economy.

The total budget of the ESI funds is over €645 billion, which represents more than half of the total EU budget.

The five ESI Funds

European regional development fund (ERDF): strengthens economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting imbalances between regions. More info.


European social fund (ESF): supports employment- and education-related projects as well as investments in human capital. More info.


Cohesion fund (CF): focuses on poorer regions in Europe and aims to reduce disparities and promote sustainable development. More info.


European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD): addresses the challenges faced by the EU's rural areas. More info.


European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF): focuses on fisheries and aquaculture, as well as coastal communities across the EU. More info.


ESIF Management

The ESI funds are managed together by the EU and the Members States through partnership agreements.

These agreements are prepared by the Member States in collaboration with the European Commission, and set out how the funds will be used during the funding period. The current funding period is 2014-2020.

Partnership agreements lead to a series of Operational Programmes, which describe in further detail how the funding will be channeled to different regions or specific policy areas.

Investment priorities

The ESI Funds support eleven investment priorities, also known as thematic objectives:

  1. Strengthening research, technological development and innovation;
  2. Enhancing access to, and use and quality of information and communication technologies;
  3. Enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
  4. Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors;
  5. Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management;
  6. Preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency;
  7. Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures;
  8. Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility;
  9. Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination;
  10. Investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning;
  11. Enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration.

ESI Funds and Health

While health is not specifically included among the 11 ESIF priorities, health investments can be supported under almost all the thematic objectives. More info.


Thanks to ESIF health-investments, 41.7 million people in the EU will benefit from improved health services from 2014 to 2020. In particular, ESIF health-investments contribute to:

  • Improving access to healthcare

  • Reducing health inequalities

  • Boosting healthcare reforms

The most relevant funds for health investments are the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). A previous EU-funded study has estimated that the amount of financial allocations for health investments is around €9 billion. Of this amount, nearly €5 billion is invested via the ERDF and over €4.2 billion comes from the ESF.