Brussels, 01/12/2014 – On the 28 November the European Commission endorsed the 2015 Annual Growth Survey package. This new AGS sets out the new Commission’s 3 priorities for the coming cycle: A coordinated boost to investment, a renewed commitment to structural reforms and pursuing fiscal responsibility. This new agenda is an attempt to temper the austerity drive with a boost for growth – but it gives no clear signs of how this will be made inclusive or deliver on poverty. EAPN will be considering the package and its impact on poverty over the next days with its members.
EAPN’s initial reaction is one of deep concern, at the complete lack of visibility of the Europe 2020 objectives, targets and guidelines in the AGS and the commitments to reduce poverty by 20 million by 2020, as well as the other employment and education targets. Whilst the Employment Report tells us that poverty and inequality has increased, in the main AGS poverty is only mentioned at the end, without any explicit priority or policy focus. This compares to the previous AGS which made tackling unemployment and the social impact of the crisis an explicit priority, with an analysis of some of the necessary policies, including integrated active inclusion, commitments to delivery on social investment priorities like tackling homelessness, investing in children.
“We are really disappointed. The time to act is now: to show real commitment to fight against poverty, but there is nothing in the AGS t that reflects that. What will the EU say to the 124 million citizens facing poverty and extreme poverty all over in the EU? How will the EU be able to justify non-action? The general assumption appears to be that investment in big infrastructural projects, primarily focussed around a privatisation agenda, will lead to jobs, which will trickle down to impact on poverty. But that is at best naïve, at worst wilful because such an approach cannot deliver without a social guarantee imbedded in an integrated strategy ensuring rights to quality jobs, services and social protection” said Sérgio Aires, President of EAPN.
“We know that a limited focus on growth and jobs does not work. The ‘Lisbon strategy’ had no visible impact on the overall poverty rates despite record growth and jobs – even now the new Joint Employment Report shows that whilst employment has improved in Greece, Spain and Portugal, the social indicators show growing poverty; work is NOT a guaranteed route of poverty, particularly when wages and work conditions are being directly undermined. ’’ Sérgio Aires added.
EAPN welcomes the stronger commitment to simplify the process and to increase ownership and accountability of the European Semester, stressing the need for strong stakeholder engagement with a specific mention of civil society. However, we are concerned that the focus is too much on ‘gaining acceptance for the strategy and improving implementation’ rather than ensuring accountability, genuine debate involving stakeholders and national parliament.
“We hope that this commitment means a genuine interest in restoring legitimacy, dialogue and building joint solutions, rather than a public relations exercise’’ said Barbara Helfferich, Director of EAPN.
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