Regulation 1303/2013 [last amended by Regulation 2015/1839 and Decision 2014/190] establishes common provisions for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds), in order to ensure coordination and harmonise implementation of the Funds providing support under cohesion policy, namely the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) [Regulation 1301/2013, see section 12.3.3], the European Social Fund (ESF) [Regulation 1304/2013, see section 13.3.3] and the Cohesion Fund [Regulation 1300/2013, see section 12.3], the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) [Regulation 1305/2013, last amended by Regulation 2015/791, see sections 21.3.3 and 21.5.1] and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) [COM/2013/245, see section 22.4]. In addition this Regulation contains general provisions which apply to the Structural Funds, namely the ERDF and the ESF, which together with the Cohesion Fund are referred to as the 'Funds'. Hence, Regulation 1303/2013 is the legal instrument laying down the provisions necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the ESI Funds and their coordination with one another and with other Union instruments, in particular the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Under Article 317 /TFEU, and in the context of shared management, the Commission should obtain assurance that Member States are using the ESI Funds in a legal and regular manner and in accordance with the principle of sound financial management within the meaning of the 'Financial Regulation' of the Union [Regulation 966/2012, last amended by Regulation 2015/1929]. Member States at the appropriate territorial level, in accordance with their institutional, legal and financial framework and the bodies designated by them for that purpose should be responsible for preparing and implementing programmes. Those conditions should also ensure that attention is drawn to the need to ensure complementarity and consistency of relevant Union intervention, to respect the principle of proportionality and take into account the overall aim of reducing administrative burden.
In order to maximise the stimulus provided by the budget resources deployed, making use of appropriate financial instruments, the European assistance provided in the form of grants may be combined in an appropriate way with loans and guarantees of the European Investment Bank (EIB) [see section 7.3.3]. The latter is the longest standing regional development instrument, for the Treaty of Rome called upon it to ensure a balanced and smooth development of the common market in the interests of the Union (Article 309 TFEU, ex Article 267 TEC). Almost 75% of EIB financing in the Union contribute to regional development, although they pursue other objectives such as those of promoting SMEs and trans-European networks [see section 6.8]. The EIB notably supplies long-term capital for the financing of infrastructure projects in the fields of transport, energy and telecommunications.
Article 309 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU confirms that the loans and guarantees of the EIB will facilitate projects for developing less-developed regions, for modernising or converting undertakings or for developing fresh activities as well as for projects of common interest to several Member States. This Article makes specific reference to the desired interaction between EIB operations and Structural Funds measures, stating that "in carrying out its task, the Bank shall facilitate the financing of investment programmes in conjunction with assistance from the Structural Funds and other Union financial instruments", which concern regions whose development is lagging behind and declining industrial areas. The Bank also plays an active role in the financing of trans-European networks and thus in the implementation of the support instruments financed by the Union budget: interest rate subsidies on its own loans, co-financing of feasibility studies and co-financing of guarantee funds.