Establishment of the Social Policy Task Force:
This was a crucial working group of EAPN, responsible for the advocacy work of the organisation and for the dialog with the institutions. It will run between 1994 and 1997 (followed by the Social Inclusion Group and lately by the European Union Inclusion Strategies Group).It was responsible for organising three very important and impacting Conferences:
- Mobilising Europe against poverty and social exclusion, Dublin July 1996
- Social protection or exclusion?: a choice for Europe, Villeneuve d’Ascq, 26-27 March 1999
- Mainstreaming poverty social exclusion: integrating the fight against poverty and social exclusion across all areas of public policy to promote social cohesion, Lisbon, March 2000
Election of the Third President:
Ruth Brandt (Germany) and she will stay for two years (one mandate) as President (1994-1996)
5th GA – Hertogenbosch (Netherlands)
Green paper on Social Policy in the EU:
The Green Paper on European Social Policy in November 1993 was a significant development, as it was the first official document which deals explicitly with this matter and which also aims to establish a dialogue with NGOs. The aim of the Green Paper was to stimulate a wide-ranging and intensive debate within all Member States. It was issued to coincide with the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, an opportune time to take stock and consider the different options for the future. The document covers the full spectrum of social policy issues those that are priority to Member States and those that are of priority to the Union. The main questions addressed by this Green Paper were:
- What sort of a society do Europeans want?
- Is there a route back to full employment?
- Should the welfare state be given a new role?
- What is the next stage in equality of opportunity, without which European democracy will falter?
Organisation of the Social Policy Forum:
A group of concerned NGOs worked together to organise an NGO Forum to discuss the Green Paper in April 1994. This co-operation continued on an informal basis and gave rise to common positions on the proposal for a European Social Policy Forum, and on the medium-term Social Action Programme 1995-1997. This Forum was particularly important – some people affirm that it was one of highest moments for NGO’s and civil dialog in the EU – since it was crucial for the creation and development of the Platform of European social NGOs from 1995 onwards. EAPN played a central role in the creation of the Platform and its follow-up, particularly between 1995 and 2005.
Introduction of the concept of Social Dialogue:
Padraig Flynn, the European Commissioner with responsibility for Employment and Social Affairs, and also a very good friend of EAPN, announced the creation of a “Comité des Sages“, leaded by the Portuguese Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo (former Portuguese Prime-Minister), to draw up a report to help prepare discussions at the first European Forum on Social Policy, to be held on 26-27 March 1996. EAPN, both at the national and European levels, followed this process very closely and was one of the major actors preparing proposals and having most of them included in the final report “White paper of social policy”. The White Paper settled out the Commission’s approach to the next phase of social policy development (1995-1999) and followed the wide-ranging debate that was initiated by the ‘Green Paper on Social Policy – Options for the Union’. In all, more than 500 reactions have been received from a wide variety of sources and a synthesis of the different submissions were published as an accompanying volume to the White Paper. The Commission’s White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment also provided a valuable complementary focus in the debate about the need to create more jobs and at the same time preserve the basis of social protection, which the people of Europe have come to prize. Interesting to remember one of the major conclusion / recommendations of this document already in 1994: “the need for a new mix between economic and social policies: The paper emphasises the need to take a broader view of social policy particularly in the current climate of major socio-economic upheaval. Social policy should not simply be focussed on the labour market and labour law, but on integrating all people into the economy and society as a whole, particularly by widening access to paid employment.”
Conference with Eastern Social NGO’s:
Although quite challenging to organise, the Conference was the major and quite successful action to start EAPN’s enlargement process. It took place in Budapest, May, and most of the new National Networks in membership of EAPN would come out of the contacts made during this conference.
Establishment of the Training Support Group / Trainings:
Since the decision of promoting training sessions to enhance the exchanges between national networks and their members and the reinforcement of the human capacity of the network (namely by promoting induction training sessions, particularly devoted to a new generation of activists), a permanent working group was established. This group was responsible to prepare the training sessions and, in most of the cases, also functioned as trainers and peer support members. The methods used were based on the experience of participants themselves in the fight against poverty and social exclusion, maximum participation and on an acknowledgement of cultural differences. The objectives of the so called “basic training” were:
- Allow participants to network and exchange experience on their national/local/network context
- Provide information on the structure and activities of the European network
- Raise awareness of developments in EU policy of particular interest to NGOs working on the fight against poverty and social exclusion
- Give some insight into certain specific areas of work of EAPN (Structural Funds, EU strategy to combat social exclusion…)
- Provide tools for developing the involvement of participants in the network’s activities (information tools, working methods, contacts)
- The training sessions took place in: France (Bierville), February 1995, Portugal (Porto), March 1995, Luxembourg, February 1996, Spain (Pamplona), May 1996, UK (Wexford), June 1997, Belgium (Leuven), February 1998, UK (Birmingham), September 1998, and Austria (Vienna), February 1999. From 1999 till 2003 the Training was devoted exclusively to the Development Officers of the National Networks. In 2003 this group was finished and the trainings stopped happening in the same model as before going into a more thematic specific approach organised exclusively by the Secretariat without any evaluation or follow-up specifically devoted group.