Brussels, 15 May 2015 – The European Anti-Poverty Network reacted sharply to the Commission’s proposals for country-specific recommendations, which were published on the 13th of May. “The new recommendations may be closely aligned with President Juncker’s key priorities in the Annual Growth Survey: boosting investment, structural reforms and responsible fiscal policies, but they offer little in the way of a vision to turn the tide for the more than 120 million people in poverty in Europe,” said Sérgio Aires, President of EAPN. EAPN is very concerned about the increasing invisibility of Europe 2020 Strategy together with its commitments to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and to deliver on the targets – particularly to reduce poverty by at least 20 million by 2020.
Only 6 countries receive CSRs on poverty (BG, CZ, HU, IE, RO, SK) despite the fact that 121.3 million people, 1 in 4 are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. This represents an increase of nearly 5 million since 2008. While these CSRs include some positive recommendations regarding addressing the poverty risk of children in Ireland, or increased support for education for disadvantaged groups particularly Roma, in Hungary and Romania, or adequacy and coverage of benefits (HU), poverty surprisingly is not specifically addressed in the CSRs themselves. There is a lack of coherence, consistency and ambition about the proposals. The overwhelming focus is on jobs, with an ambiguous reference to in-work poverty, when the preamble makes clear that the focus should be on reducing wages to increase competiveness (BG, HR, RO). EAPN also finds a disturbing support to increased conditionality on minimum income benefits and support to forced low paid labour, particularly with a CSR supporting the Work-Fare programmes in Hungary.
EAPN also misses a strong focus on social investment, health and education services and adequate social protection, as the base of an integrated strategy as crucial elements to ensure access to rights and resources to prevent as well as alleviate poverty. EAPN finds it worrying that the concept of rights has been replaced by the concept of fairness. The primary and overwhelming focus is on continuing to reduce deficits ‘cutting public finances in key areas like pensions, healthcare and social benefits’ as well as de-regulating labour markets which are likely to generate more poverty and social exclusion.
.. And even more surprisingly and a total lost opportunity there is no mention to the European Social Fund and the need to use it to promote the fight against poverty.
EAPN will carry out a fuller assessment of these CSRs, but already sees little reason for optimism for millions of people still suffering from the worst effects of the crisis and austerity measures backed by EU economic governance, and even worse for those who were already living at risk pf poverty before.
“We are really disappointed and frustrated. We had high expectations that these CSR’s would make a difference and showed clearly we were going to start changing track in Europe. We call for effective EU action that invests in ‘people’ not just business – that prioritises inclusive growth and the fight against poverty based on quality jobs, social investment and adequate social protection. In other words we call on the Commission to immediately issue additional transversal recommendations to fight poverty for all Member States,” added Sergio Aires, President of EAPN.
Notes for the editor