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EAPN recognises the two dimensions of streamlining defined in the Communication by the Commission on “Strengthening the social dimension of the Lisbon Strategy: streamlining open coordination in the field of social protection”, 28 May 2003, on the one hand “in order to strengthen the social dimension of the Lisbon strategy” by streamlining social, employment and economic policies and on the other hand in terms of “creating an integrated framework for the cooperation in social protection”. In response to this proposal, EAPN would like to stress first of all the importance of maintaining visible the social inclusion strategy within this second element of the streamlining process.
In light of the Commission Communication, EAPN would like to stress that the commitments made at the Lisbon Summit in March 2000 and the subsequent setting up of a European strategy to fight poverty and social exclusion have raised expectations for all those involved in the fight against poverty, and particularly for people experiencing poverty themselves. The expectation of “making a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010” must be met through a commitment of the European Union to focus its policy agenda on the fight against poverty, exclusion and inequalities, in line with the values embedded in the new Constitutional Treaty of respect for Human dignity and equality, and of the objectives defined therein of combating social exclusion and promoting social justice.
The different strands of the EU social inclusion strategy launched in 2000 have also set a pace that requires continuity at all levels if concrete results are to be achieved which will meet the objectives set. To break the continuity in the existing process is to threaten the stability and progress made to date. As a process which has not yet had a chance to “prove itself”, the Open Method of Coordination on social inclusion must be pursued in its entirety, maintaining all the strands of the existing strategy. If this is not the case, the momentum generated by the Lisbon commitments will be lost.
Similarly, there is a need for recognition of the efforts made both in raising the visibility of the EU social inclusion strategy in the accession and candidate countries to the EU, but also of the efforts that have been made by these countries in embedding the strategy in their national social policies. A change in the EU process to address poverty and social exclusion could undermine achievements reached to date and could send out a wrong message with regard to the strategic importance of tackling poverty and social exclusion in Europe.
Finally, EAPN wishes to underline that social inclusion is a much broader concept than social protection. To reduce social inclusion to just one pillar of a streamlined social protection process does not reflect the complexity and multi-dimensional nature of poverty and social exclusion. A clear focus on social inclusion must be maintained and reflected at all levels of the streamlining process.