One of the overarching principles of the EU is to ensure that all member countries develop together. A 'cohesion fund' was set up in 1992 to help the countries facing the stiffest challenges, by boosting employment, financing infrastructure and reducing the differences in standards of living. The fund works by financing investment programmes that are directly managed by the national and regional authorities in partnership with the EU.
Cohesion policy to date is a long list of success stories, but now we face new challenges. The most recent report on economic and social cohesion takes a close look at the situation in the EU's 27 countries and 268 regions.
The report sets out key questions to focus the debate on the way forward. What skills does a modern Europe need in order to compete? How can the EU and national governments best work together? Entertaining such questions is vital if we are to deal with challenges like globalisation, low birth rate and energy shortages.
Regional policy commissioner Danuta Hübner presenting the report, explained: "Cohesion policy is all about providing opportunities to each EU citizen wherever they live.”