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The European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme
for Northern Ireland 2007 - 2013

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European Regional Development Fund Turns 40


The European Regional Development Fund was born 40 years ago, with the adoption of a Regulation on 18 March 1975 that laid the foundations for today's EU regional policy.

In December 1974, the European Commission had announced that the then European Economic Community (EEC) of nine Member States was to have a European Regional Development Fund to 'finance the growth of its most backward areas'.


The European Community will soon have a Regional Development Fund to help finance the economic growth of its most backward areas. This was one of the most important political decisions made by the nine EC heads of government at their "Summit" meeting in Paris December 9-10, 1974.

A fund of 1.3 billion units of account (the forerunner of the euro) was to be established for a trial period of three years starting in 1975.

In allocating resources, priority will be given to the neediest member countries - Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

In 1975 the poorest areas of the EEC were southern Italy, most of Ireland, western and south-western France, northern Holland, parts of West Germany along the (then) eastern border, and large parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Wales and Scotland.

The fund was targeted at the most disadvantaged Member States and the resources divided accordingly: Belgium, 1.5 %; Denmark, 1.3 %; France, 15 %; Ireland, 6 %; Italy, 40 %; Luxembourg, 0.1 %; the Netherlands, 1.7 %; Germany, 6.4 %; the United Kingdom 28 %.

Regional policy, according to the 1974 Summit communiqué, is meant to correct imbalances "resulting notably from agricultural predominance, industrial change and structural underemployment."

Find out more about the historical context of the decision here, or on our dedicated page History of EU regional policy.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) is designated as Managing Authority for the Competitiveness Programme. The funding is delivered through three main spending Priorities:  

  • Sustainable Competitiveness and Innovation;
  • Sustainable Enterprise and Entrepreneurship;
  • Improving Accessibility and Protecting and Enhancing the Environment;

In addition, a small percentage of the overall allocation is set aside for programme management, verification, evaluation and publicity activities.