Infrastructure is essential for the development and proper functioning of the European single market. The Trans-European Networks (TENs) reflect the European Union’s policy in this area. They aim to create modern and efficient infrastructures in order to interconnect European regions and national networks by defining priorities and developing action plans in three strategic sectors: transport, energy and digital. The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is the EU funding mechanism that finances key infrastructure projects identified under the TENs, to enable further integration of the European single market by facilitating the free movement of goods, people and services.
The European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) is responsible for managing the Energy CEF and the Transport CEF, while the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) manages the Digital CEF. The European Commission manages the general CEF framework. The overall CEF budget for the period 2021-2027 is close to 34 billion euros, including 26 billion euros for the CEF Transport, 6 billion euros for the CEF Energy and 2 billion euros for the CEF Digital . The majority of CEF funding takes the form of grants (29 billion euros). For the period 2014-2021, 3,521 proposals were evaluated in the three sectors, leading to 1,920 projects securing funding up to 28.4 billion euros (14.8 million euros on average per project).
The CEF Transport focuses its resources on cross-border initiatives aimed at eliminating congestion points within the TEN-T core network (which connects major cities and nodes) and the global network (which connects all EU regions to the core network), as well as on horizontal priorities such as traffic management systems. In addition, it contributes to a more environmentally friendly transport sector, since more than 80% of the planned funding will be allocated to sustainable modes of transport.
The CEF Energy focuses on promoting cross-border renewable energy initiatives, diversifying supplies, promoting network interoperability and improving the seamless integration of the internal energy market. Its areas of intervention are aligned with the TEN-E policy which identifies priority corridors and thematic areas and establishes a biennial list of projects of common interest (PICs) which help the EU meet its energy and climate objectives at short and long term. The principle of “energy efficiency first” is taken into account.
The CEF Digital focuses on the deployment of digital networks, such as 5G, free public wifi, which promote national cross-border interactions with the EU and transcontinental connections, as well as real-time communication and exchange of data. It develops cross-border interoperability in key areas such as eJustice, e-Health and cybersecurity.
The selection criteria for projects applying for CEF funding are as follows:
- Relevance – this involves assessing the extent to which the project contributes to the objective of creating efficient, sustainable and well-connected trans-European networks.
- Maturity – this involves assessing the level of readiness of the project in terms of technology, planning, business model and financial structure.
- Impact – this involves assessing the expected impact of the project on economic, social, environmental, innovation/digitalization, security and interoperability aspects.
- Quality – this involves assessing the strength of the proposed implementation plan.
Calls for projects are regularly published via the EU funding and tender portal. Each call defines the scope of admissible projects and the funding rate. After submission, applications undergo an in-depth evaluation process based on predefined criteria, which lasts 3 to 4 months. After the project is selected for funding, the financing agreement is put in place and the project can be executed. The European Commission oversees the monitoring and reporting of projects financed under the CEF.
european economics regularly analyses the financing opportunities offered by the Connecting Europe Facility for its clients promoting infrastructure projects.