Europe is genuinely facing a myriad of challenges at the minute. The EU has to help combat the causes of migration in order to prevent new refugee crises. At the same time, borders have to be secured and terrorism defeated. This all costs a lot of money. Furthermore, it looks very likely that Brexit is just round the corner – according to information from European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger, this will hit the EU to the tune of more than EUR 10 billion per year from 2020. The higher spending and the missing revenues collectively threaten to create a hole in the budget of up to EUR 30 billion per year.

This is why the EU is urgently scrutinising its current spending, and this applies in particular to the so-called cohesion policy. The policy is based on a contractual obligation to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion within the EU. Special emphasis is placed on reducing developmental differences between regions, and helping particularly disadvantaged areas catch up.

To achieve these goals the EU has invested increasing sums of money over the years (see figure):

Annual cohesion policy spending has risen from roughly EUR 1 billion at the end of the 1970s to well in excess of EUR 60 billion today.