On the occasion of the German Presidency Council Conclusions published this Monday 12 October, EAPN releases its statement on the vital need for EU Action on adequate Minimum Income. Poverty and inequality are rising again with the COVID-19 pandemic which has deepened existing inequalities (see EAPN COVID-19 report). Certain groups were always disproportionately at risk of poverty and social exclusion, such as children, single parents (mainly women), people with disabilities, the long-term unemployed, migrants, and black and minority ethnic groups. It is these groups of people who are suffering the effects of the pandemic even worse – exacerbating inequalities, hitting the poorest people hardest, as well as poorer countries and areas.
In this context, adequate Minimum Income is a life boat in the storm. This year’s EAPN Poverty Watch reports, launched for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 17 October, and produced by anti-poverty networks at the national and European level, overwhelmingly highlight the lack of adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income Schemes.
This week, the EU has a key opportunity to make progress on guaranteeing an adequate minimum income for everybody, offering a glimmer of hope to EU citizens gripped by fear and insecurity for the future. Following weeks of intensive discussions led by the German Presidency, the EPSCO – prior to its meeting on 13 October – has adopted Council Conclusions on “Strengthening Minimum Income Protection to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion in the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond”. Unfortunately, by not fully embracing the original Conclusions drafted by the German Ministry, Member States have missed an opportunity. The final Conclusions do, however, offer important progress on guaranteeing adequate, accessible and enabling minimum incomes and open the door to a proposal for a binding European framework. This would help to bring together Member States to work together towards a shared political and moral commitment to end poverty and social exclusion, as underlined in SDG 1.
It is time for the European Commission to step up and propose an EU Framework Directive on Minimum Income!
The Commission must now show leadership and propose a Framework Directive on Minimum Income, as one of the key EU initiatives in the Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, due to be adopted early in 2021. When other measures have, so far, failed to make the progress needed, binding EU legislation is now essential to ensure that national minimum income schemes set high social standards guaranteeing everyone an adequate minimum income throughout their lives and access to benefits and services. It would also tackle the gaping holes in national social protection schemes which the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed. It should turn existing recommendations, including extensive Country-Specific Recommendations in the European Semester, into binding minimum requirements that guarantee social rights, which no country can ignore. Existing and new EU funds, including as part of the Recovery and Resilience Package, will be essential to support poorer countries, whose minimum income schemes are still not adequate, not least to make European solidarity a reality.
There is new and compelling evidence that there is a strong legal basis for introducing a binding EU framework for adequate national minimum income schemes. Tomorrow, EAPN launches a new Expert Opinion which provides the legal and policy arguments on the feasibility and added value of introducing a binding EU framework for adequate national minimum income schemes. It clarifies the appropriate scope and content of such a binding EU-level and EU-wide instrument and proposes a new dual legal basis building on competences the EU has in the social policy and cohesion policy fields and fully respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.