Every year, the European Union funnels 50 billion € (one third of its total budget) to its poorer regions in the EU as catch-up funds. For many regions this money constitutes an important part of public investments. But because the funds are primarily directed at the poorest regions, regions that get richer receive less money over time. That is why governors of these regions started redrawing region boundaries. This is how EU money flows and provokes statistical gerrymandering, European style.

People familiar with the geography and economics of Europe know where the rich, developed countries are: they are mostly situated in Western and Northern Europe. On the map below, the developed countries are shaded in purple, less developed countries are in shades of orange. These colors are used throughout this article. Their exact meaning is not very important yet here, but they will be explained later on.

For a long time, one of the policies of the EU has been to create more “cohesion”, eurocrat jargon for poorer and less developed regions catching up with the developed ones. An easy solution for EU policy makers would have been to just funnel EU money from developed countries to less developed ones. But the policy makers were smarter and knew from maps like the one below that rich countries also have poor regions and poor countries also have richer regions.

Notice the geographical divisions in Italy (developed north, less developed south), Belgium (the same) and Germany (developed west, less developed east), and the islands of development that are the regions containing the capitals (Spain, France, UK, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, …)

TODO: mark capitals with a dot

This breakdown in 276 regions is what the European Union uses to distribute its catch-up funds for the construction of transport infrastructure, the construction of schools and hospitals and research and development projects, for example. Poorer regions get a bigger share of the 50 billion € that is distributed annualy, and have to cofund less of total project costs.

Here is what every region received in catch up funds in the ten years from 2007 until 2016 (numbers for 2016 are only partial). Andalucia is the region that received the most money: it ‘absorbed’ more than 15 billion € spread over 10 years.

Of course, population should be taken into account. The following map shows total funding per capita per year for the period 2007-2016 (numbers for 2016 are only partial, numbers are in €/capita/year).

To illustrate the importance of the catch-up funds for some regions, the following map shows the total funds received in 2015 (the most recent year with complete data available) as a percentage of regional GDP. For some regions, the funds amount to more than 5 percent of the gdp.