Guide to Business in Spain logo

8. EU aid and incentives

8.2 Other aid instruments

Apart from the significant effect that the new European Recovery Instrument will undoubtedly have on the Spanish economy, it is important to remember that the European Union provides States with other resources and funds that can be used to finance the achievement of other objectives considered of interest to the Union. In general, most of this financing (whether in the form of loans or subsidies) supplements the aid programs financed by the Spanish State.

Such aid is routed through the Spanish public authorities and institutions, as well as through finance entities, which act as intermediaries between the granting of aid and beneficiary. Accordingly, the related applications for subsidies must be addressed to these entities, save in the case of the direct aid under, inter alia, programs to support research, development and innovation (R&D&I) for which applications must be submitted in the respective calls for proposals issued directly by the European Commission.

The broad range of aid instruments traditionally at the EU’s disposal includes, most notably the following:

8.2.1. European Investment Bank (EIB)

The European Investment Bank (EIB) grants funding with a threefold objective: to boost Europe’s potential for growth and employment, to support measures aimed at mitigating climate change, and to foster EU policies in other countries.

On these bases, the EIB funds projects that promote the development of less favored regions and those of common interest to several Member States or benefiting the EU as a whole. They are focused mainly on the following 4 areas: (i) innovation; (ii) small businesses; (iii) infrastructures, and (iv) climate and the environment.

Additional to the foregoing are projects aiming at promoting and modernizing infrastructure in the health and education sectors may also qualify for EIB support.

The EIB is jointly owned by the EU countries and borrows money on the capital markets. For this reason, the loans it grants for projects that support EU objectives are not considered funded with money coming from the Union budget.

According to the information published by the EIB, the total amount of financing contributed by the EIB group (European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund) in 2020 was €76.8 billion.4

Specifically, the €76.8 billion were allocated to the following objectives:

Innovation and skills€14.4 billion
SMEs€30.6 billion
Infrastructures€15 billion
Environment€16.8 billion

A third of all financing contributed by the EIB in 2020 (roughly €25.5 billion) was earmarked for the immediate response to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Of that amount, "the major portion" was targeted at SMEs, in order to "avoid insolvency proceedings and job losses", particularly in countries that "did not have the budgetary means to adopt massive rescue packages”.

It is to be noted, in particular, that financing from the EIB in Spain during 2020 amounted to €8.45 billion (11% of the total), making it the country which received the second largest amount of funding from the EIB Group5.

Source: EIB

On these bases, the EIB has been offering two types of loans: Global loans (“Intermediated loans”)

Global loans are similar to the credit lines granted to financial institutions, which subsequently lend the funds to the final beneficiaries, so that they can make small or medium-scale investments meeting the criteria set by the EIB itself.

This is the main instrument with which the EIB provides support for SMEs and MID-CAPs since, by granting loans to banks or other intermediaries, access to funding is provided indirectly to small and medium-scale business initiatives (although this does not preclude large companies, local and national authorities and other public sector entities from also qualifying for loans this type).

The loans are granted by the EIB to banks or other financial institutions in all the Member States, which act as intermediaries. These financial intermediaries conduct an analysis of the investment, and of the economic, technical and financial viability of each of the projects. They are responsible for granting the loans for small and medium-scale investments and for the administration of such loans.

Specifically in Spain, global loans are routed mainly through, inter alia, Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO), Banco Bilbao-Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), Santander, Bankinter, Sabadell, Banco Cooperativo, Kutxabank, Banca March, Laboral Kutxa, La Caixa, Unicaja, Bankia and Banco Popular6.

There are many different types of loans and credits, with varying maturities, amounts and interest rates, but their general terms can be summarized as follows:

  • Coverage of up to 50% of the overall investment costs and, in certain cases, up to 100% of the investment with a guarantee from the intermediary bank.
  • Grace period: Up to three years.
  • Repayment period: To be determined by the financial institution acting as intermediary and the EIB, although it tends to fluctuate between 2 and 15 years.
  • Beneficiaries: Local authorities, SMEs (for these purposes, SMEs are deemed to be companies that have less than 250 workers) or MID-CAPs (which have up to 3,000 workers).
  • The amount awarded under a global loan may not exceed €12.5 million, including the possibility of working-capital financing.
  • Free of fees and other charges, except for minor administrative expenses.

Applications must be filed with financial institutions or other intermediaries. Loans for individual projects (“Project loans”)

The EIB also grants loans for individual projects with a total investment cost above €25,000,000.

Although the loans can cover up to 50% of the total cost, on average, they tend to cover approximately only a third.

In general, the following are the main characteristics of these loans:

  • Public or private investment projects made mainly in the infrastructure, energy efficiency/renewable energies, transport and urban renewal sectors are considered eligible. Nevertheless, research and innovation programs and, in certain cases, medium -capitalization companies with a maximum of 3,000 employees, can also benefit from this form of loan.
  • The projects for which an application for financing is presented must fulfil the objectives set by the EIB and be viable from the economic, financial, technical and environmental perspectives. The terms of the financing depend on the type of investment and on the guarantees provided by third parties (banks or banking consortia, other financial institutions or the parent company).
  • The interest rate may be fixed, variable, reviewable or convertible (meaning that the calculation formula may be changed during the term of the loan, on certain pre-established dates).
  • In some cases, the EIB can apply project evaluation or legal analysis fees, and commitment or non-use fees.
  • Most of the loans made by the Bank are denominated in euros (EUR), although they can also operate in other currencies, such as GBP, USD, JPY, SEK, DKK, CHF, PLN, CZK and HUF, etc.
  • As a general rule, these loans are repaid in half-yearly or yearly instalments. Grace periods may be granted with respect to the repayment of principal throughout the construction period of the project.

A project financed by the EIB usually goes through 7 major stages: proposal, appraisal, approval, signature, disbursement, monitoring and repayment.

Operating scheme:

Lastly, an essential role is being played by the EIB in starting up the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

The EFSI was created by the European Commission to help meet the objective of mobilizing at least €315 billion in new investments during the 2015-2017 period, which was subsequently extended to 2020 (EFSI 2.0). Last year, therefore, marked the end of this Fund’s investment program and, as at December 31, 2020, additional investment stood at €547 billion7 , reaching €12.2 billion in the case of Spain, with a further €60.3 billion in additional investments.

In this current context and with respect to the new Community budgetary framework (2021-2017) approved by Regulation 2020/2093, of 17 December 2020, the Commission is proposing to build on the success of the EFSI model and benefitting from economies of scale generated by it by merging all instruments currently available to foster investment in the EU, such as, in fact, it already proposed previously, with the creation of the “InvestEU” program to bring EU budget financing in the form of loans and guarantees under one roof.8

That said, as regards the InvestEU program, it should be noted that on December 8, 2020, the European Commission published a press release welcoming the political agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Member States on the final approval of the Regulation that formally establishes the legal rules governing the program9.

The Program will consist of (i) the InvestEU Fund, which will bring together a range of financial instruments to support investment in the EU and mobilize public and private investment using EU budget guarantees, estimated to generate investments worth €650 billion; (ii) the InvestEU Advisory Hub, for the provision of technical assistance to investment projects seeking financing; and (iii) the InvestEU Portal, as a database in which both investors and project sponsors will be grouped.

The scope of the financing provided by the InvestEu Fund includes the following 4 main policy areas:

  1. Sustainable infrastructure (€11.5 billion), to finance projects in, for example, renewable energy, digital connectivity, transportation, circular economy, water management, waste management and environmental protection infrastructure.
  2. Research, innovation and digitalization (€12.25 billion), aimed at promoting, among others, projects in research and innovation, digitalization of industry, artificial intelligence, etc.
  3. SMEs (€11.25 billion), in order to make financing accessible to SMEs and MIDCaps.
  4. Social investment and skills (€4 billion), to finance projects in such areas as education, training, housing, schools, universities, hospitals, health care, long-term care and accessibility, social entrepreneurship, migrant integration, refugees and vulnerable people.

The InvestEU Fund will mobilize public and private investment through an EU budget guarantee of €38 billion.

To ensure a swift rollout and its local reach, InvestEU will be implemented in conjunction with the EIB and the European Investment Fund (EIF), as well as with other implementation partners such as international financial institutions and national development banks and institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank, the Council of Europe Bank and national banks.

8.2.2 European Investment Fund (EIF)

The EIF is an EU body which specializes in providing guarantee and venture capital instruments to SMEs for better access to funding. Its principal shareholder is the EIB itself, although the European Commission and a wide range of financial institutions across Europe also own holdings in its capital stock.

It uses, for its activities, equity capital or funds provided by the EIB or the European Union, the Member States, or other third parties.

It is neither a lending institution nor does it provide subsidies to enterprises or directly invest in them. All of its work is carried out through banks and other financial intermediaries. Moreover, it ensures the continuity required in the management of EU programs and has accumulated extensive experience in this area.

The EIF was created for purpose of fostering EU objectives, particularly in the areas of entrepreneurship, growth, innovation, research and development, employment and regional development. Today, the core mission of the EIF is to provide support to SMEs and grant them access to funding at a time of reduced financing granted by credit institutions. To meet this objective, and according to the needs of each regional market, the EIF designs innovative financial products aimed at its partners.

The work of the EIF can be classed according to the financial products (capital and debt) offered, which include most notably:

  • Venture Capital Products: The EIF invests in venture capital funds that, in turn, provide financing to innovative SMEs.
  • Debt Products: In these cases, the EIF provides security and credit enhancements to financial intermediaries to facilitate the flow of funds from financial institutions to SMEs.
  • Microfinance: The EIF provides financing, security and technical assistance to financial institutions for their microfinance activities..

Indeed, although the EIF mainly uses venture capital instruments as a means of making capital more available to high-growth innovative SMEs, the Fund also offers debt instruments, having found that many SMEs seek financing through this more traditional route. From this standpoint, the EIF offers security and credit enhancements by means of the securitization of credit, in order to improve the lending capacity of financial intermediaries and, as a result, and ultimately, the availability and terms of the debt for the SME beneficiaries.

The forecast volume of investment from the EIF, on December 31, 2020, amounted to approximately €32.37 billion.10

The following table summarizes the main instruments and initiatives promoted by the EIF and the potential beneficiaries thereof:

Selected Financial IntermediaryWhat is availableWho is eligible?Initiative
  • BBVA
  • Loans
  • SMEs
  • EFSI
  • Bankia
  • Bankinter
  • Banco Popular Español
  • Banco Sabadell
  • Banco Santander
  • CaixaBank
  • Cajas Rurales
  • Liberbank
  • Loans
  • SMEs
  • SME Initiative Spain
  • Inveready

  • LABORAL Kutxa
  • CaixaBank
  • Loans
  • Innovative SMEs and small Mid-Caps
  • EFSI

  • InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility
  • Loans
  • SMEs
  • EFSI

  • COSME - Loan Guarantee Facility (LGF)
  • Bankinter
  • Loans
  • Innovative SMEs and small Mid-Cap
  • InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility
  • Loans
  • MSMEs in the cultural & creative sectors
  • CCS GF
  • Bankinter
  • Deutsche Bank Spain
  • Loans
  • Innovative SMEs and small Mid-Caps
  • Risk Sharing Instrument (RSI)
  • MicroBank
  • Loans
  • Social-enterprises
  • EaSI

  • EFSI
  • MicroBank
  • Loans
  • Mobile Master Student
  • Erasmus+ Master Loan Guarantee Facility
  • Caja Rurales Unidas
  • Cajamar Cooperative Group
  • Colonya Caixa Pollenca
  • Fundaciò Pinnae
  • Laboral Kutxa/Caja Laboral Popular (ES)
  • Micro-loans
  • Micro-enterprises including individuals
  • Progress Microfinance
  • Laboral Kutxa/Caja Laboral Popular
  • Banco Popular Español
  • ColonyaCaixa d'Estalvis de Pollença
  • Soria Futuro, PLC
  • Micro-loans
  • Micro-enterprises including individuals
  • EaSI
  • Triodos Bank
  • Loans
  • Social enterprises
  • EaSI

8.2.3 European Structural and Investment Funds

For the new 2021-2027 period, and notwithstanding what ultimately results from the final approval of the relevant legislative instruments, the Union’s regional and cohesion policy will focus on 5 priorities:

  • A smarter Europe, through innovation, digitalization, economic transformation and support to SMEs.
  • A greener, carbon free Europe, implementing the Paris Agreement and investment in energy transition, renewables and the fight against climate change.
  • A more connected Europe, with strategic transport and digital networks.
  • A more social Europe, delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights and supporting quality employment, education, skills, social inclusion and equal access to healthcare.
  • A Europe closer to citizens, by supporting locally-led development strategies and sustainable urban development across the EU.

As a result of these priorities, 65% to 85% of ERDF and Cohesion Fund resources will be allocated, depending on Member States’ relative wealth.

The Cohesion Policy will keep on investing in all regions, still on the basis of the 3 categories applied during the 2014-2020 period (less-developed, transition, more-developed). Similarly, the allocation method for the funds is still largely based on GDP per capita, although new criteria are added, such as youth unemployment, low education level, climate change, and the reception and integration of migrants, to better reflect the reality on the ground. Outermost regions are also expected to continue benefitting from special EU support11.

Lastly, according to the available information, this Cohesion Policy will continue to support locally-led development strategies, encouraging local authorities to play a more prominent role in the management of funds. In the same way, the urban dimension of the Cohesion Policy is strengthened with 6% of the ERDF dedicated to sustainable urban development. Along the same lines, it includes a new networking and capacity-building program for urban authorities known as the “European Urban Initiative”. Common provisions on the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds)

Regulation (EU) No 1303/201312 of 17 December lays down common provisions applicable to all of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ERDF, ESF, Cohesion Fund, EAFRD and EMFF) and general provisions applicable to some of them, in order to ensure the effectiveness of the ESI Funds and their coordination with one another and with other EU instruments, notwithstanding the specific rules regulating each Fund and which are set out below.

The purpose of this Regulation is to improve the coordination and harmonize the execution of the Structural Investment Funds (ESI Funds) to ensure “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” focused on the attainment of  11 thematic objectives:

  1. Strengthening research, technological development and innovation.
  2. Enhancing access to, and use and quality of ICT.
  3. Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, of the agricultural sector (for the EAFRD) and of the fishery and aquaculture sector (for the EMFF).
  4. Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors.
  5. Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management
  6. Preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency.
  7. Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks.
  8. Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labor mobility.
  9. Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination.
  10. Investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning.
  11. Enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration.

To this end, a Common Strategic Framework (CSF) is created (which can be reviewed by the Commission where there are major changes in the social and economic situation in the Union), setting a number of common recommendations and criteria for those opting for financing from the ESI Funds.

Based on the foregoing premises (at least for the above-mentioned 2014-2020 period), the aim of the Funds is to supplement the financing provided through national, regional and local interventions, in order to achieve their respective specific objectives. The Member States, in accordance with their institutional, legal and financial framework, and the bodies designated by them, shall prepare and implement programs and carry out their tasks, in partnership with the relevant partners. To this end, each Member State must promote a partnership in which, in addition to the competent local and regional authorities, with the participation of the following partners:

  • Economic and social partners.
  • Other bodies representing civil society, including environmental partners, non-governmental organizations and bodies responsible for promoting social inclusion, gender equality and non-discrimination.

With this premise, the Partnership Agreement is the national document prepared by each Member State, which explains the investment strategy and priorities of the respective Funds (ERDF, ESF, EAFRD and EMFF) in such State and must be approved by the Commission. Such strategy must be based on a previous analysis of the current situation of the Member State and its regions, in particular (i) the disparities existing between those regions; (ii) the opportunities for growth and (iii) the weaknesses of all its regions and territories, focusing on the “thematic objectives”, which will entail the identification of the actions in the State in question which are to be treated as priorities by each of the ESI Funds.

In the case of Spain, the Partnership Agreement for the period 2014-2020 was approved by the European Commission on November 4, 2014, although as of the date of preparation of this document, the Partnership Agreement has yet to be approved for the next period (2021-2027).

The Partnership Agreement established as specific objectives of the ESI Funds, in Spain, to promote the competitiveness and the convergence of all territories, giving priority: (i) to the thematic areas included in the recommendations given by the European Council; (ii) to those contained in the Position Paper prepared by the Commission13; as well as (iii) to those set forth in the National Reform Program approved in 2014.

The Partnership Agreement envisaged an investment of €28,580 million aimed at financing the entire Community cohesion policy in this country for the period 2014-202014, a figure which included an additional €8,290 million to be used for the performance of Rural Development Programs and €160 million intended for the fisheries and maritime sectors.

This financing to be used to execute the proposals for action described in the Partnership Agreement in connection with each of the thematic objectives listed above, had the following main priorities:

  • Increasing participation in the labor market and labor productivity, as well as enhancing education, training and social inclusion policies, giving special attention to youth and vulnerable groups.
  • Supporting the adaptation of the productive system toward activities with greater added value, by increasing the competitiveness of SMEs.
  • Promoting a suitable business environment targeted at innovation and strengthening R&D&I systems.
  • Attaining a more efficient use of natural resources.

The material implementation of the Funds, in any event, requires the approval of the corresponding Operational Programs (i) prepared by each Member State in accordance with the terms of the Partnership Agreement and (ii) presented to the Commission for its approval. Each Program will define priorities and proposals for action, specifying the projected investment and breaking it down by each of the years of the period in which it is applied. In Spain, however, the Operational Programs for the 2021-2027 period have not been approved yet. Funds under the Cohesion Policy: ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund

The Funds under the Cohesion Policy include Structural Funds (ERDF and ESF) and the Cohesion Fund, which contribute to enhancing economic, societal and territorial cohesion.

  • European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

    This Fund contributes to the funding of measures adopted in order to enhance economic, societal and territorial cohesion by correcting the Union’s main regional imbalances, through (i) sustainable development and the structural adjustment of regional economies, and (ii) by restructuring industrial regions in decline and less developed regions.

    The activities that can be cofinanced by the ERDF are the following:

    1. Investments in production which contribute to creating or preserving long-term employment, through direct aid and investment in SMEs.
    2. Productive investments, independent of the size of the company in question, which contribute to boosting research, technological development and innovation and to supporting a shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors. Also, where such investment entails cooperation between large companies and SMEs to enhance access to, and use and quality of information and communication technologies.
    3. Investments in infrastructures that provide basic services to citizens in the areas of energy, environment, transportation and information and communication technologies.
    4. Investments in societal, health, research, innovation, business and educational infrastructures.
    5. Investment in the development of native potential through ongoing investments in capital goods and small infrastructures, including small cultural and sustainable tourist infrastructures, corporate services, aid to research and innovation bodies and investment in technology and applied research at companies.
    6. Interconnection online, cooperation and exchange of experiences between competent regional, local, urban and other public authorities, economic and social partners and the related bodies representing civil society referred to in article 5.1 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013, as well as the performance of studies, preparatory actions and the development of capacities.
  • European Social Fund (ESF)

    The mission of the ESF is (i) to promote high levels of job quality; (ii) improve access to the job market; (iii) foster the geographical and professional mobility of workers; (iv) facilitate their adaptation to the industrial change and to the changes in production systems necessary to guarantee sustainable development; (v) favor a high level of education and training for all and support the transition from education to employment among youth; (vi) combat poverty, back social inclusion and (vii) foster equality between the sexes, non-discrimination and equal opportunity. The objective of all of the foregoing is to respond to the EU’s priorities in matters of improving economic, societal and territorial cohesion.

    In short, the Fund seeks to benefit citizens and, in particular, disadvantaged persons, such as long-term unemployed persons, disabled persons, immigrants, ethnic minorities, outcast communities and persons of any age living in poverty and social exclusion.

    The ESF also provides aid to workers and to enterprises (including agents of the social economy and entrepreneurs) with a view to (i) facilitating their adaptation to new challenges, by including greater suitability of professional qualifications; (ii) fostering good governance; (iii) boosting social progress and (iv) the implementation of reforms, especially in the area of employment, education, training and social policies.

  • Cohesion Fund

    The Cohesion Fund is targeted at Member States with GNI (gross national income) per capita of less than 90% of the average income of the EU. The primary objective of the Fund is to reduce the socio-economic disparities among Member States and to promote sustainable development.

    Although as of the date of preparation of this document the characters of these cohesion funds have not been definitively defined for the new 2021-2027 period, they are likely to be very similar to those applicable in the previous period. The allocations proposed for the States for the 2021-2027 period (in € million, at current prices) can be seen in the following table:

 ESF+ERDFETCCFOf which to transfer to the CEFTransfers*CPR proposal, Annex XXII
Technical assistance34973729153
Transnational cooperation200

Compared with the 2014-2021 period, the proposed allocations would be as follows:

Source: ECA based on Commission data

According to the analysis performed by the European Court of Auditors in its report of March 2019, on the “Allocation of Cohesion policy funding to Member States for 2021-2027”, such allocation in the case of Spain led to an increase in the number of regions with less developed region status.

8.2.4. The funding policy of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) absorbed around 40% of the total budget of the EU for the 2014-2020 period. Despite its heavy budgetary weight, justified in part by its being one of the few sectors whose policy is financed principally by the EU, its importance in economic terms has been reduced substantially over the last 30 years, dropping from 75% to the current 40%. The budget for direct payments assigned to Spain in that period is equal to €29,227,900,000,000, which entails 11.56% of the total.

The financing and functioning of the CAP is regulated under Regulation nº 1306/2013, of 17 December 2013, of the European Parliament and of the Council, on the financing, management and monitoring of the Common Agricultural Policy.

As a result of the health crisis brought about by COVID-19, the reform of the 2020 post CAP will not take place in the 2021 campaign, given that, for example, the approval of its new multiannual financial framework has been delayed. For this reason, Regulation 2020/2220, of 23 December 2020, has amended Regulation 1306/2013, in order to lay down certain transitional provisions governing its operation in 2021 and 2022. In this regard, a reserve of €400 million has been established at EU level.

Against this backdrop, in Spain the government has approved Royal Decree 41/2021, of January 26, 2021, which establishes specific provisions governing the application of the CAP in Spain for these two years. According to the press release from the Council of Ministers, this will ensure that Spanish farmers and cattle breeders can receive around €7.2 billion in aid in each of these two years15.

Accordingly, if the new CAP does not enter into force, the existing legal framework is broadened, instrumented essentially around two structural pillars:

  1. The first pillar, through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF), providing direct support to farmers and funding market measures covered in their entirety and, exclusively, by the EU budget, with a view to guaranteeing the application of a common policy throughout the single market and with the integrated management and control system.
  2. The second pillar, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), improving the competitiveness of agricultural and forestry industries and promoting the diversification of economic activity and quality of life in rural areas, including regions with specific problems, based on measures co-funded with the Member States.

The following is a description of the main characteristics of these two Funds:


In general, the EAGF funds the following actions, managed jointly by the Member States and the Commission:

  • Measures aimed at regulating or supporting agricultural markets.
  • Direct payments to farmers established within the scope of the CAP.
  • The financial participation of the Union in the measures taken by Member States to report and promote agricultural products on the Community domestic market and in third countries.
  • The financial participation of the Union in the Union school fruit and vegetable scheme.

In turn, the EAFRD provides direct funding for the following expenditure:

  • Promotion of agricultural products, undertaken either directly by the Commission or through international organizations.
  • Measures to ensure the conservation, characterization, collection and utilization of genetic resources in agriculture.
  • The establishment and maintenance of agricultural accounting information systems.

The Commission provides Member States with the credit necessary to cover the expenses financed by the EAGF, in the form of monthly reimbursements.


In the field of local development, consideration must be given to Regulation 1305/2013, of 17 December 2013, of the European Parliament and of the Council, on support for rural development throught EAFRD16.

In particular, the EAFRD has 3 basic objectives:

  1. Fostering the competitiveness of agriculture.
  2. Ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources, and climate action.
  3. Achieving a balanced territorial development of rural economies and communities including the creation and maintenance of employment.

In order to meet these objectives, the EAFRD has 6 priorities:

  1. Fostering knowledge transfer and innovation in agriculture, forestry, and rural areas.
  2. Enhancing farm viability and competitiveness of all types of agriculture in all regions and promoting innovative farm technologies and the sustainable management of forests.
  3. Enhancing farm viability and competitiveness of all types of agriculture in all regions and promoting innovative farm technologies and the sustainable management of forests.
  4. Restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry.
  5. Promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift towards a low carbon and climate resilient economy in agriculture, food and forestry sectors.
  6. Promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas.

In accordance with Regulation 1305/2013 mentioned above, the Union aid intended for rural development was €8,290,828,821 for the 2014-2020 period, with €1,320,014,366 earmarked for 2021 and €1,080,382,825 for 2022. This is notwithstanding the resources intended for the recovery of the agricultural sector and rural areas of the Union as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, which amount to €212,332,550 for 2021 and €505,351,469 for 2022.

According to available information17, for the post 2020 budgetary framework, the Commission has proposed a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which maintains the essential elements of the current policy, but is no longer based on the mere description of the requirements that are to be met by the final beneficiaries of the aid.

Rather it is now a policy aimed at obtaining specific results linked to 3 general objectives:

  1. Fostering an intelligent, resilient and diversified agricultural industry that guarantees food safety.
  2. Intensifying environmental care and pro-climate action, contributing to reaching the EU’s climate and environmental goals.
  3. Strengthening the socio-economic fabric of rural areas.

8.2.5. European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

For the 2014-2020 period, a new Fund was created for EU maritime and fishery policies known as the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and regulated in Regulation (EU) No 508/2014, of 15 May 2014, of the European Parliament and of the Council18.

In the case of Spain, there has been a specific Operating Program pertaining to this Fund in force since November 13, 2015, managed by the Directorate-General of Fisheries under the Secretariat-General of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, with a total budget of €1,161,620,889.

The European Commission is already preparing the EMFF for the new 2021-2027 budgetary framework. According to the informal agreement of December 4, 2020 between the European Council and the European Parliament19, the proposal includes a budget of €6,108 million, which, according to the Proposal for a new Regulation on EMFF and repealing Regulation (EU) 508/2014, will be used to attain the following priorities:

  1. Promote sustainable fishing and the conservation of marine biological resources, by fostering:
    • Small-scale coastal fishing, through an action plan for small-scale coastal fishing and investments in small-scale coastal fishing vessels.
    • The management of fisheries and of fishing fleets.
    • Compensation in the event of the extraordinary cessation of fishing activities in certain circumstances.
    • Support for the development and implementation of the EU fisheries control system.
    • Support for the collection, management and use of data to manage fisheries and for scientific purposes.
    • Compensation of additional costs incurred by operators in the fishing, farming, processing and marketing of certain fishery and aquaculture products from the Union’s outermost regions.
    • Actions aimed at protecting and restoring marine and coastal biodiversity and ecosystems, including inland waters.
  2. Contribute to EU food safety through aquaculture and sustainable and competitive markets, including the following support measures:
    • Actions that contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the common organization of markets in fishery and aquaculture products.
    • Investments in the processing of fishery and aquaculture products.
  3. Enable the growth of a sustainable blue economy and to develop prosperous coastal communities, through both the sustainable development of local economies and communities through community-led development and through the collection, management and use of data to improve knowledge of the status of the marine environment.
  4. Strengthen the international governance of oceans and to guarantee protected, safe, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans, establishing maritime surveillance and cooperation mechanisms between coastguards.

8.2.6. European Union Research and Innovation Programs Horizon 2020

The EU has been approving successive multi-year programs which set out the lines of action of the Community research and innovation policy, allocating considerable economic resources to their performance.

The EU Research and Innovation Programme for the 2014-2020 period was called “Horizon 2020” and was regulated by Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 11 December 2013.

The objective of the program was none other than to contribute to building a society and an economy based on knowledge and innovation across the Union mobilizing, for this purpose, financing aimed at attaining, over this period, a target of 3% of GDP used to promote research, development and innovation (R&D&I) throughout the EU.

This program had a total budget of 74,828.3 million euros to finance research, technological development and innovation initiatives and projects with obvious European added value.

Horizon 2020 was based on three fundamental pillars of (i) Excellent science, to increase the level of excellence in European basic science and ensure a steady flow of quality research to ensure Europe’s long-term competitiveness; (ii) Industrial leadership, to speed up the development of technologies and innovations that underpin tomorrow’s new technology and help innovate European SMEs to grow into world-leading companies; and (iii) Societal challenges, focused on researching big issues affecting European citizens.

With respect to funding, most of the activities were instrumented as competitive tenders in “Horizon 2020” managed by the European Commission with pre-established priorities in the respective working programs which were previously published.

In general, any European enterprise, university, research center or legal entity that wished to develop a R&D&I project, provided that its content was consistent with the lines and priorities stipulated in any of the pillars of “Horizon 2020” could participate in the calls.

To be able to participate in most of the actions included in this program, it was developed through consortium projects, which had to involve at least 3 independent legal entities, each one established in a different EU Member State or associated state.

The European Commission is currently preparing the next European Union Investment and Innovation Framework Program, which will be known as “Horizon Europe” and will cover the years 2021-2017. This Program, endowed with a budget of €100 billion, which entails a 50% budgetary increase compared to Horizon 2020, making Horizon Europe the biggest research and innovation program ever proposed. Thus, on December 11, 2020, the Presidency of the Council reached a provisional political agreement with the European Parliament’s negotiators on the proposed regulation establishing Horizon Europe and laying down its rules for participation and dissemination20.

According to the Proposed Regulation, the general objective of Horizon Europe will be (i) to deliver scientific, economic and social impact by investing in research and innovation, in order to strengthen its scientific and technological bases and boost its competitiveness, including that of its industries; (ii) deliver on the Union’s strategic priorities and (iii) address global challenges, including sustainable development objectives.

In particular, the program has the following specific objectives:

  • To support the creation and diffusion of high-quality new knowledge, skills, technologies and solutions to global challenges.
  • To strengthen the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing Union policies, and support the uptake of innovative solutions in industry and society to address global challenges.
  • To foster all forms of innovation, including breakthrough innovation, and strengthen market deployment of innovative solutions.
  • To optimize the Program's delivery for increased impact within a strengthened European Research Area.

To this end, according to the Proposed Regulation, Horizon Europe will be structured into four pillars and budgets:

  1. Open science”, which will have an indicative budget of €25.8 billion and will comprise (i) the European Research Council, for pioneering research conducted by the best researchers and teams; (ii) the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, to provide researchers with new knowledge and skills through mobility and training; and (iii) research infrastructure.
  2. Global Challenges and Industrial Competitiveness”, which will have an indicative budget of €52.7 billion and will consist of the clusters of “Health”, “Inclusive and secure society”, “Digital and industry”, “Climate, energy and mobility”, and “Food and natural resources”, as well as non-nuclear direct actions of the Joint Research Center (JRC).
  3. Open innovation”, which will have an indicative budget of €13.5 billion and will comprise (i) the European Innovation Council, to support innovations with breakthrough and market creating potential; (ii) European innovation ecosystems, aimed at connecting regional and innovation actors; and (iii) the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), aimed at bringing key actors (research, education and business) together around a common goal for nurturing innovation.
  4. Strengthening the European Research Area”, which will have an indicative budget of €2.1 billion and will include (i) widening participation and spreading excellence; and (ii) reforming and enhancing the European R&I system.

The preliminary structure of Horizon Europe would be as follows:

In this respect, the main new features introduced by Horizon Europe stem from some of the lessons learned from the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020, such as the following:

  • The European Innovation Council, to support innovations with breakthrough and disruptive nature and scale-up potential that are too risky for private investors. To this end, provision is made for (i) grants from early technology phase to pre-commercial phase; and (ii) grants and blended finance from pre-commercial phase to market and scale-up phase.
  • The execution of research and innovation missions, to relate EU’s research and innovation better to society and citizens’ needs, with strong visibility and impact. These specific missions will be programmed within the “Global challenges and European industrial competitiveness” pillar.
  • The strengthening of international cooperation, opening the program to association with third countries and territories that have (i) good capacity in science, technology and innovation; and (ii) the commitment to a rules-based open market economy, including fair and equitable dealing with intellectual property rights, backed by democratic institutions.
  • A policy of “open science”, so that, in in general, (i) open access to scientific publications resulting from research funded under the Program shall be ensured; (ii) responsible management of research data shall be ensured in line with the FAIR principles; and (iii) open science practices beyond open access to research outputs and responsible management of research data shall be promoted.

    In line with the above, (i) beneficiaries shall ensure that they or the authors retain sufficient intellectual property rights to comply with open access requirements; and (ii) open access to research data shall be the general rule, but exceptions shall apply if justified, taking into consideration the legitimate interests of the beneficiaries and any other constraints, such as data protection rules, security rules or intellectual property rights.

  • A new approach to European partnerships, to rationalize the funding landscape. These partnerships can take the following forms: (i) Co-programmed European Partnerships (on the basis of memoranda of understanding or contractual arrangements between the Commission and the partners); (ii) Co-funded European Partnerships (based on the commitment of the partners for financial and in-kind contributions); or (iii) Institutionalized European Partnerships (with research and innovation programs undertaken by several Member States or by bodies, such as joint undertakings or by knowledge and innovation communities).
  • The spreading of excellence, (i) establishing it as a possible criterion for awarding subsidies and as the sole criterion in the case of actions by the European Research Council with respect to “knowledge frontiers”; and (ii) creating a seal of excellence to which certain beneficiaries can aspire. Other Research and Innovation Programs

Parallel to “Horizon 2020” and “Horizon Europe”, the European Commission also extends R&D&I funding opportunities through other additional programs of significance in the context of the European Research and Innovation Strategy, such as the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) program, initiated in 1971 and one of the oldest European framework programs supporting cooperation among scientists in all of Europe in different areas of research, and the EURATOM, (European Atomic Energy Community) program, with the goal of coordinating the research programs of Member States in the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

  • COST Program

    The COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) program is the first, and one of the largest, intergovernmental network for the coordination of scientific and technical research at European level, and currently involves 38 countries and Israel as a cooperating State. It also has a multitude of reciprocity agreements (including Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, the US, China, Japan and South Africa21).

    This program is targeted at researchers who work (i) in universities and research centers, regardless of size, both public and private, in any of the 38 COST countries or Israel; (ii) in any technological or scientific field; and (iii) provided that they have an original and innovative idea.

    Its objective is to strengthen scientific and technical research in Europe, financing the establishment of cooperation and interaction networks between researchers who organize themselves around a specific scientific objective.

    The program functions through networks known as COST Actions, which are established at the initiative of researchers without pre-defined thematic priorities. At least 7 participants from different COST countries must join together in order to apply for an Action, at least four of which must be from COST Inclusiveness Target Countries.

    The projects selected will receive funding for activities previously established in the joint working program – with a four-year term – from among the following:

    • Scientific meetings of working groups.
    • Workshops and seminars.
    • Short-term Scientific Missions (STSMs).
    • Training workshops and scientific conferences.
    • Dissemination publications and activities.

    COST calls for proposals are permanently open, with two submission deadlines per year (spring and autumn). The procedure for selection and grant of aid is carried out in accordance with the following scheme.

    Specifically, there is an open call for proposals for COST actions that will end in October, and 45 new actions are expected to be approved, depending on the receipt of sufficient EU budget22.

    Spain is one of the countries which is most active in COST, since it is present in more than 300 actions, approximately, which makes it number three in the ranking of countries with the highest number of participants.

    The representative of Spain in the COST program (delegate in the committee of senior officials, CSO, and COST National Coordinator, CNC) is the Ministry of Science and Innovation through the Subdirectorate-General of International Relations.

  • EURATOM program

    EURATOM energy research activities are carried out under the treaty with the same name, which in 1957 established the European Atomic Energy Community. It is legally separated from the European Community and has its own Framework Research and Training Program, which is managed by the common Community institutions, and which for the 2019-2020 period has been regulated in Council Regulation (Euratom) 2018/1563 of 15 October 2018. There is a proposed Regulation for the 2021-2025 period, which will supplement Horizon Europe and on which an agreement was reached on December 18, 202023.

    The main new features of the new EURATOM program are essentially, (i) greater attention to the non-energy applications of medical, industrial and spatial radiation; (ii) the opening up of mobility opportunities for nuclear researchers through their inclusion in Marie Sklodowska-Crie actions; and (iii) the simplification of the program, reducing the specific objectives from 14 to 424.

    Although Member States retain most competencies in energy policy, whether based on nuclear or other sources, the EURATOM Treaty has achieved an important degree of harmonization at European level. It legislates for a number of specific tasks for the management of nuclear resources and research activities.

    The general Objective of the EURATOM program, endowed with budget of €1,382,000,000 for the 2021-2025 period25, is to pursue nuclear research and training activities with an emphasis on continuous improvement of nuclear safety, security and radiation protection, all with a view to contributing to the long-term decarbonization of the energy system in a safe, efficient and secure way.

    This objective is implemented through:

    • Indirect actions targeted as:
      • Supporting safety of nuclear systems.
      • Contributing to the development of safe, long-term solutions for the management of ultimate nuclear waste.
      • Supporting the development and sustainability of nuclear expertise and excellence in the Union.
      • Supporting radiation protection and development of medical applications of radiation
      • Moving towards demonstration of feasibility of fusion as a power source.
      • Laying the foundations for future fusion power plants.
      • Promoting innovation and industrial competitiveness.
      • Insuring availability and use of research infrastructures of pan-European relevance.
    • Direct actions focused on:
      • Improving nuclear safety.
      • Improving nuclear security.
      • Increasing excellence in the nuclear science base for standardization.
      • Fostering knowledge management, education and training.
      • Supporting the policy of the Union on nuclear safety and security.

    EURATOM is a Program supplementary to “Horizon 2020” and the future “Horizon Europe”, since both have the same rules on participation and there is also a possibility of carrying out cross-cutting actions between them through co-funding and externalization.

8.2.7 Community initiatives in favor of corporate finance

The Community initiatives aimed at favoring corporate finance include most notably the COSME program and the Gate2Growth initiative:

  • COSME Program:

    The COSME (Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) program was an EU program aimed at improving the competitiveness of enterprises, with special emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises, during the 2014-2020 period, which has already ended.

    COSME helped entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises to begin to operate, access financing and internationalize, in addition to supporting the authorities in the improvement of the business environment and boosting economic growth in the European Union. It was regulated in Regulation (EU) nº 1287/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 11 December 2013.

    COSME had a budget of approximately €2.3 billion and supplemented the policies implemented by the Member States themselves in their support of SMEs, helping to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of the Union’s enterprises and encouraging entrepreneurial culture.

    The program’s objectives were (i) to improve SMEs’ access to finance and to markets; (ii) to improve the general conditions for the competitiveness and sustainability of SMEs; and (iii) to promote entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture.

    In addition to supporting internationalization, competitiveness and entrepreneurial culture, COSME was, above all, a financial instrument which will made it possible to improve a SME’s access to financing, since at least 60% of the program’s total budget (€1.4 billion) is earmarked for this purposes.

    For the 2021-2027 period, COSME will continue via two programs26:

    1. Single market program, specially dedicated to empowering and protecting consumers and enabling Europe's many SMEs to take full advantage of a well-functioning single market. To this end, the governance of the EU's internal market will be strengthened, thereby supporting businesses’ competitiveness, promoting human, animal and plant health and animal welfare, as well as establishing the framework for financing European statistics27. It is a modern, simple and flexible program which consolidates a large range of activities that were previously financed separately, into one coherent program.

      Although the future Regulation that will establish this program, competitiveness of enterprises, including SMEs, and European statistics, is still in the proposal phase28 , on December 18, 2020, the Council of the EU endorsed with the European Parliament an agreement on this multiannual program with a total budget of €4.2 billion29.

    2. InvestEU Fund, endowed, in principle, with a total budget of roughly €38 billion, and which was already described in some of its key features, as a program that will provide the EU with crucial long-term funding, crowding in private investments in support of a sustainable recovery and helping build a greener, more digital and more resilient European economy, including, among other matters, the financial portion of the COSME program30.
  • InvestorNet - Gate2Growth initiative

    The InvestorNet - Gate2Growth initiative ( is a one-stop shop for innovative entrepreneurs seeking financing. It also offers investors, intermediaries and innovation service-providers, a community for sharing knowledge and good practice.

    The initiative has incorporated all knowledge acquired through the implementation of previous pilot programs, some of the most noteworthy of which are the I-TEC project, the LIFT project and the FIT project.

    One of the most notable characteristics of this initiative is that it acts as a meeting point for innovative entrepreneurs, innovation professionals and potential investors. InvestorNet – Gate2Growth aids innovative European companies with the processes of marketing, internationalization and financial growth, by:

    • Being a partner in commercialization and value chain modeling.
    • Consulting in term-sheet and shareholder agreement negotiations.
    • Raising capital for high-tech ventures and public-private partnerships.
    • Finding strategic partnerships for investments from universities and research institutions.
    • Conducting master class in “How to Attract Investors” “Horizon 2020 SME Instrument” & “Train the Trainers in How to Attract Investors”.

    Many projects have been executed within the framework of the InvestorNet - Gate2Growth initiative, including most notably the following:

    • SLIM: Sustainable low impact mining solution for the mining of small mineral deposits based on advance rock blasting and environmental technologies (2016-2020).
    • RUBIZMO: Replicable business models for modern rural economies (2018-2021).
    • LIBERATE: Lignin biorefinery approach using electrochemical flow (2018-2021).
    • CIRCLES: The control of microbiomes-tailored circular actions to enhance food systems (2018-2023).
    • DEEP PURPLE: Conversion of diluted mixed urban bio-wastes into sustainable materials and projects in flexible purple photobiorefineries.
    • GO GRASS: Grass-based circular business models for rural agri-food value chains (2019-2023).
    • SEALIVE: Circular economic strategies and advanced bio-based solutions to keep land and sea free from plastics contamination (2019-2023).
    • NewTechAqua: New technologies, tools and strategies for a sustainable, resilient and innovative European Aquaculture (2020-2023)

    Lastly, it should be noted that, in addition to the initiatives described above, other specific business financing initiatives, according to activity sector, are also available at Community level.

4 For more information, see the following link: and European Investment Bank Activity Report 2020 (

5 For more information, see the following link:

6 Source: Financial intermediaries (

7 Source: European Investment Bank Activity Report 2020 (

8 Source:

9 Source:

10 Source:

11 Source: and

12 This Regulation was amended throughout 2020 by another set of Regulations with a view to establishing specific measures to address crisis stemming from the economic, social and health consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, providing more flexibility to Member States for compliance with certain conditions or requirements regarding the use of the funds to attend to needs resulting from the pandemic.

Notable among these amendments are those made by Regulation 2020/2220, of 23 December 2020 (with transitional provisions for support from the EAFRD and from the EAGF in the years 2021 and 2022) and Regulation 2020/1542, of 21 October 2020 (which adjusts the annual pre-financing for the years 2021 to 2023). The foregoing is aimed at providing the Member States with sufficient time to prepare their respective CAP strategic plans, as well as facilitate the creation of administrative structures necessary for successful implementation of the new legal framework and to ease the pressure on payment appropriations in the Union budget for the budgetary years 2021 to 2023 and to enhance the predictability of payment requirements and thus contribute to more transparent budgetary planning and a more orderly payment profile, reducing the rate of annual pre-financing for those years.

In turn, the Commission also approved Regulation (EU) 2020/558 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2020 amending Regulations (EU) No 1301/2013 and (EU) No 1303/2013 as regards specific measures to provide exceptional flexibility for the use of European Structural and Investment Funds in response to the COVID-19 outbreak (OJEU of April 24 2020).

In particular, Member States are given the exceptional possibility of requesting the application, for programs included in the Cohesion Policy, of a co-financing rate of 100% of the expenditure declared in payment applications during the accounting year starting 1 July 2020 and ending 30 June 2021 for one or more priority axes in a program supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) or the Cohesion Fund (CF).

13 Report on the Position of the Commission Services on the development of a Partnership Agreement and Programmes in SPAIN for the period 2014-2020. October 2012.

14 Including the financing of European territorial cooperation and the allocation for the youth employment initiative.


16 Regulation (EU) 2020/872, of 24 June, and Regulation (EU) 2020/2220, of 23 December, have amended Regulation 1305/2013 in order to introduce certain transitional measures in response to the COVID-19 health crisis and to implement them in 2021 and 2022. In addition, Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/399, of 19 January, has amended the annex to said Regulation 1305/2013 as regards the amounts of Union support for rural development in the year 2021.


18 By means of Regulation (EU) 2020/560 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2020 amending Regulations (EU) No 508/2014 and (EU) 1379/2013 as regards specific measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in the fishery and the aquaculture sector, including most notably the following measures:

  • It is possible to use 10% of the resources available from the EMFF under shared management for fisheries control and for the collection of scientific data, for measures related to the mitigation of the COVID-19 outbreak and for the compensation of additional costs in the outermost regions.
  • It is possible to support the temporary cessation of fishing activities caused by the COVID-19 outbreak crisis with a maximum co-financing rate of 75% of eligible pubic expenditure, not subject to financial capping.
  • The scope of the simplified procedure is extended to include amendments to Operational Programs related to the specific measures and the reallocation of financial resources thereto to address the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The ceiling for support to the production and marketing plans of producer organizations is increased up to 12% of the average annual value of the production placed on the market.
  • Member States are permitted to grant advances of between 50% and 100% of the financial support to producer organizations.
  • Where necessary in order to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, the EMFF will be able to grant aid to compensate the storage costs of fishery and aquaculture products, increasing the intensity of the up to 25% of the annual quantities of the products put up for sale by the producer organization concerned.
  • • It will be possible to compensate the economic losses resulting from the outbreak for operators in the fishing, farming, processing and marketing of certain fishery and aquaculture products from the outermost regions (in particular those resulting from the deterioration in the price of fish or increased storage costs).










28 and