EAPN presents its members’ assessment of the 2017 Country Reports for EU Member States: Making progress on Social Europe? Poverty reduction, social rights and standards. Members looked into to what extent the analysis and recommendations in them impact on poverty and social exclusion, in light of current policy developments in their own countries. On the basis of this assessment, EAPN members’ own proposals for Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) in 2017 are also presented.
Country Reports assess the progress of each Member State in addressing the issues identified in the previous CSRs, including an in-depth review under the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure. For Member States with a macro-economic adjustment programme, the Report discusses progress with the implementation of reforms. The Reports provide the basis for dialogue with Member States in bilateral meetings and feed into the preparation of National Reform Programmes (as well as Stability / Convergence Programmes), to be submitted by Member States in mid-April. They also provide a key moment for stakeholder engagement.
The European Commission’s Communication on the Country Reports reflects a greater focus on the social dimension in the European Semester (process to monitor progress on the EU’s Europe 2020 Strategy’s targets and ensure the active involvement of Member States): it explicitly mentions the Europe 2020 Strategy and the lack of advance on the Strategy’s 2020 poverty target, recognizing that, despite reductions since 2014, little progress is actually being made on the target of 21.6 million. Moreover, it recognizes that structural changes have resulted in “growing inequalities in the distribution of income, wealth and opportunities”, as well as increased perception of “unequal opportunities and unfair-burden sharing”. For the first time, it stresses that “distributional effects” have to be taken into account, particularly with regard to tax/benefit policies. It underlines social investment as a pre-requisite for successful growth, and the need for integrated approaches to activation, access to adequate social protection and quality social services (Active Inclusion).
However, most EAPN respondents report that the most important missing dimension is the lack of attention given to poverty throughout the reports. Specifically, what is strikingly absent is the lack of recognition of the impact of access to social protection, quality services and jobs on poverty and social exclusion.
7 priorities for Country-Specific Recommendations in 2017
- Refocus on the fight against poverty and social exclusion, through EU and national, comprehensive, rights-based integrated anti-poverty strategies, and through comprehensive poverty, social and equality impact assessment, in order to reach the Europe 2020 target
- Shift the narrative from austerity to social investment in social rights and standards and finance adequate and sustainable welfare states through tax justice and progressive taxation
- Raise the levels of social protection, including minimum income, as a cornerstone of guaranteeing dignified lives, free of poverty
- Guarantee universal access to affordable, quality services, including health and housing
- Invest in inclusive labour markets, featuring pathway approaches to quality, sustainable employment for all groups
- Don’t leave anyone behind – design complementary support and integration strategies for groups at particular risk of poverty and exclusion
- Take active steps to promote meaningful civil dialogue including people experiencing poverty in the European Semester