There are 68 million people living below the poverty line in the 25 Member States of the European Union. The European Anti-Poverty Network assigns a high level of importance to the Structural Funds as significant instruments for combating social exclusion in Europe. Although the Structural Funds comprise only a small part of public spending, they have an influence out of proportion to their size because of the developmental model chosen, the inequalities they address and the partnerships engaged. The European Social Fund has a specific role in promoting inclusion and targeting vulnerable groups. The other funds also have considerable potential to combat social exclusion. Non-Governmental Organizations working with people experiencing poverty can play an important role in designing, planning, delivering, implementing, evaluating and monitoring the Structural Funds.
Over the past number of years, EAPN has documented the experience of NGOs of the Structural Funds and drawn attention to the need to involve NGOs, the importance of transparency in Structural Fund operations and the need to ensure compliance by national governments and managing bodies with the regulations. In this report, EAPN puts forward its position on the draft regulations issued for the Structural Funds proposed for 2007 to 2013 (II). Key issues affecting social inclusion are identified and highlighted. Changes from previous regulations are compared. Proposals are put forward to rectify shortcomings (III).