This article investigates the role of European Union Cohesion Policy in the development of European identity, drawing on an original and representative survey in 17 regions across 12 member states. We advance a theoretical model which distinguishes cognitive, instrumental and communicative drivers of identity formation. Contrary to existing scholarship, we find that EU Cohesion Policy does contribute to European identity. Citizens that perceive benefits for themselves and for their region’s development from EU Cohesion Policy are more likely to develop a European identity. We also find that awareness of the EU Cohesion Fund and exposure to publicity on EU funded projects is positively correlated with European identity. However, while Cohesion Policy contributes to citizens’ self-categorization as European, it does not associate with their emotional attachment to Europe. The study has important implications for understanding European identity formation and communicating the benefits and role of the EU in regional policy.