EAPN welcomes the adoption by the European Council of the Joint Report on Social Inclusion, relating to the National Action Plans for Social Inclusion (NAPs Inclusion) for 2003-2005 drawn up by the ‘old 15’ EU Member States.
The Report is an important source of information on the NAPs Inclusion and contains some useful indicators of priorities which can inform policy development. Most EAPN national networks have already used or have plans to use the Report in their work, as an information source and as a tool to increase the visibility of the Social Inclusion Strategy at national level.
We welcome, in particular, the ‘six priorities’ agreed by the Council, including the challenge of “ensuring that social protection systems, including minimum income schemes, are adequate for all to have sufficient income to live with dignity and that provide effective work incentives for those who can work”. These priorities, adopted at the highest political level in the EU, point the way to achieving the Lisbon goal ‘to make a decisive impact in the eradication of poverty by 2010’.
EAPN members are concerned, however, that the analysis of the Plans in the Report does not measure them against this ambitious goal, or against the Common Objectives agreed in 2000, and does not give a balanced picture of developments in Member States as they affect people living in poverty. The Plans concentrate almost entirely on positive examples of policies written by Governments in the Plans and ignores policies which have made life harder for people in poverty.
There is little indication, in policy discussions before or after the Spring Council, that the priorities indicated in the Report will be taken up by Member States with sufficient energy to make a decisive impact on poverty. The fact that there is no mandate to include Recommendations in the report makes it too loose a system to be effective.
The process of developing the JIR should be an opportunity to involve all the actors, but the experience of the EAPN National Networks is that it is still largely a closed process, although in some countries there has been more involvement of NGOs and other actors that in the previous ‘Round’.
This paper summarises the analyses by EAPN national networks of the Report and makes some proposals on how to the make the process more effective in the context of the mid-term review of the social inclusion strategy and the discussions on ‘streamlining’ social inclusion and social protection processes.