Pawel Samecki, European Commissioner in charge of Regional Policy defined Cohesion policy's goals as follows (2009): to enhance competitiveness and employment at the regional level; to facilitate growth in the lagging areas of the Union; to foster integration across borders. EU Cohesion Fund is one of the EU's regional policy and financial instruments, which aims to bridge between the existing national economic and social disparities. It is meant to fund large-scale infrastructure development activities (projects) in environmental protection and transport sectors.
Being defined as an investment priority the sector of transport infrastructures as well as sector of environmental infrastructure (as part of public infrastructure) frequently faces the issue of efficiency since there is not a single reliable concept of measuring possible impact of interventions in place. The issue of measuring the impact comprises itself in other possible components: impact of what, on what and for whom or in other words if policymakers must decide whether to expand, contract or maintain a program, or simply want to improve it, they need more than accountability information, they need to learn what works and what doesn't, and why. Thus, evaluating the impact of (cohesion) policy does involve a variety of cognitive tasks, with varying degrees of complexity (Martini 2009).
The present paper overlooks the issue of impact evaluation in the field of public investment projects and the goal is to complement ongoing debates on the efficiency of the policy.
2. Overlook of Cohesion policy
According to Community strategic guidelines on economic, social and territorial cohesion, 2007-2013 the programmes supported by Cohesion policy should seek to target resources on the following three priorities (European Council 2006):
1) improving the attractiveness of Member States, regions and cities by improving accessibility, ensuring adequate quality and level of services, and preserving the environment;
2) encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship and the growth of the knowledge economy by research and innovation;
3) capacities including new information and communication technologies, and creating more and better jobs by attracting more people into employment or entrepreneurial activity, improving adaptability of workers and enterprises and increasing investment in human capital.
Present planning period follows previous programming periods, which are described as successful in making difference to standards of living across European Union (European Commission 2007), not very effective (de la Fuente 2003) and failed to deliver a satisfactory growth performance (Sapir et al. 2004). Some researchers note that no evidence is found that the policies adopted are the most appropriate (Boldrin, Canova 2001) and the Cohesion Funds should be terminated with the end of the previous spending cycle (2006) (Boldrin, Canova 2003).
Fig. 1 shows changes in amount of available EU financial resources for implementation of Cohesion policy.
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Financial instruments and initiatives to address economics and social imbalances at Community level did exist since the beginning of European integration but only in 1986 legal foundations introduced by the Single European Act paved the way for an integrated cohesion policy. During the period 1957-1988, the European Social Fund (ESF, since 1958), the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF, since 1962), and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, since 1975) co-financed projects which had been selected beforehand by Member States. EU Cohesion Fund is one of the EU's regional policy and financial instruments, which aims to bridge between the existing national economic and social disparities. It is meant to fund large-scale infrastructure development activities (projects) in environmental protection and transport sectors. …