Milestones, crossroads, and pathways punctuate Europe’s journey. Among these, the Cohesion Fund is an outstanding example of how our determination and rock-solid solidarity have helped improve the lives of millions of Europeans and modernising countries.
In its first 30 years, the fund has helped EU countries close their economic and social gap through investment in the environment and transport infrastructures. From iconic bridges to wind farms, it has reshaped European skylines and opened opportunities.
Many bricks and nearly €179 billion worth of investment later, here are a few examples of how it has spurred sustainable development and helped Europe get closer.
The iconic Vasco da Gama Bridge (Portugal)
Opened ahead of the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition, the Vasco da Gama Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in the world — and Europe’s longest one! Co-financed by the Cohesion Fund with €328.6 million, the 12.3 km-long cable-stayed bridge has helped Lisbon connect Portugal’s northern and southern regions, divert transit traffic from the city, and regenerate a former industrial area.
This engineering marvel is built to high standards to resist earthquakes. Underneath it, the stunning waterfront promenade of the Parque das Nações offers visitors and locals new leisure opportunities, balancing between functionality, beauty, and sustainability.
Traffic reliever: Dublin Port Tunnel (Ireland)
Ireland is an EU cohesion success story. The country leveraged its past Cohesion Fund to boost investment and drive economic and social growth. Among the projects co-financed by the EU, the Dublin Port Tunnel stands out, being one of the major civil engineering projects in Ireland’s history and one of the longest urban tunnels in Europe.
By connecting the Dublin Port directly to the motorway network, the six-kilometre-long tunnel has contributed to cutting congestion, noise, and air pollution from heavy lorries in the centre of Dublin. A remarkable result since the port is a key strategic access point for Ireland, handling almost 50% of all trade in the country
Soft mobility: a cycle route across the Atlantic Pyrenees
The Circuldouce project is probably one of the most inspiring EU-funded projects. Spread across the Atlantic Pyrenees, from Pamplona in Spain to Bayonne in France, the cycle route has made 70 km of public roads available to non-motorised traffic.
The project provides tourists with the infrastructures and spaces needed to discover the charming areas and residents with new transport options to bypass very high traffic while promoting sustainable mobility, especially during summer. Overall, the cycle path has helped deepen cross-border cooperation, paving the way for its inclusion in the EuroVelo 1 — one of the long-distance cycling routes crossing Europe.
Flying high: making Riga a traffic transit hub of northern Europe (Latvia)
From modernised railways to waste management, Latvia has embarked on a journey to modernise its infrastructures and economy, leveraging EU funding opportunities to boost investment. A reality, travellers can experience landing at the Riga International Airport.
Located 12 km from Riga’s city centre, the airport is the largest in Latvia and the Baltic states. Over the years, the Cohesion Fund co-financed its further development in 2011 and modernisation in 2016, making it safer, more secure, and environmentally friendly.
Minding the gap: Bucharest Metro Line 5 (Romania)
Some of the most unforgettable places are hidden beneath the surface. This is the case of the extension of Bucharest Metro Line 5. Inaugurated in 2020, the ten new stations of the 6.7 kilometre-long line can serve 20 million passengers a year and give the 335,000 residents of Drumul Taberei and the neighbourhood a modern and sustainable means of transport.
The result is ten stations themed according to the surrounding area. For example, Favorit Station, located next to a well-known cinema dating back to the 1970s, has walls plastered with black-and-white film countdown sets. Similarly, the Academia Militaria Station displays army uniforms. For the city known as the ‘Little Paris,’ these unique designs are nothing short of impressive and don’t fail to disappoint.
Connecting the city within the city: the Petržalka Tram Line (Slovakia)
Located on the south bank of the Danube, Petržalka is a city within the city of Bratislava. For years, its 100,000 residents relied on buses to reach the city centre through one of the four bridges, with trams and other rolling stock getting limited investments. It is not surprising if the construction of the new Petržalka Tram Line proved to be a turning point for the city’s mobility.
The EU-funded project delivered 2.4 kilometres of new tramline connecting the Petržalka district with the city centre. The new line offers a fast and environmentally friendly high-capacity public transport alternative and an iconic piece of architecture — the reconstructed Starý Most (Old) bridge, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Danube.
No water to waste: the Domžale-Kamnik Central Wastewater Treatment Plant (Slovenia)
The Alps have inspired poets, painters, and musicians for millennia. Yet, they are the home of millions living in fascinating villages and towns, oftentimes touched by crystalline waters, like the Kamniška Bistrica River in Slovenia. For years, the river basin suffered from the pollution of small agglomerations, still lacking proper wastewater collection and treatment.
With the co-financing support of the EU Cohesion Fund, Slovenia has implemented measures to safeguard the ecological integrity of the river and preserve the quality of drinking water sources. As a result, a specialised facility has been established to effectively treat various types of wastewater, including municipal, rainwater, and industrial wastewater originating from six municipal areas.
This facility has the capacity to handle up to 9 million cubic meters of wastewater annually and also produces biogas by converting waste sludge, which can generate an impressive 3,000 kilowatts/hour of electricity each year. Certainly, its real success lies in the protected beauty of the Kamniška Bistrica.
Blowing in the wind: producing renewable energy in Pelplin (Poland)
Rich in cultural heritage, the Pomeranian Voivodship is also home to an invisible treasure: wind. As Europe seeks to become a climate-neutral continent by 2050, harvesting renewable energy from this source becomes vital. The Cohesion Fund has played a defining role in supporting green investments like, among others, the twenty-four new wind turbines in the municipality of Pelplin.
Each with a capacity of 2 MW, these turbines have a total capacity of 48 MW, which is enough to meet the annual needs of almost 50 thousand homes. The electricity generated is delivered to the national grid to be used to reduce electricity shortages in Poland, ease dependence on imported energy and reduce CO2 greenhouse gas emissions.
History is in the making: the Rail Baltica (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)
Bridges, railways, motorways and more: the Cohesion Fund has proved that Europe is about connecting people. As it seeks to become the largest infrastructure project in the last 100 years in the Baltics, the Rail Baltica is set to cross the ‘historic’ threshold.
The Rail Baltica is an ongoing and sustainable rail project linking Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. With more than €5 billion in investments in the region, the EU co-financed project will provide the three countries with a new double-track electrified rail infrastructure, seven futuristic passenger stations, and three multimodal terminals. Set to become fully operational by 2030, the Rail Baltica will be a critical link between the Baltic region and the rest of the European Union, boosting its development and opening up new market opportunities.
Discover more about EU-funded projects and the Cohesion Fund