The event had as its main aim reviewing current EU policy instruments and their role in poverty reduction. Testimonies from people experiencing poverty opened the event, including Sonja Leemskhuil (EAPN NL). Sian Jones, EAPN Policy Coordinator presented the main messages and recommendations from our review of the NRPs (Widening the Gap – EAPN 2013 NRP Assessment), in the session Europe 2020 and the Semester, together with Eurodiaconia and Egbert Holthuis, Head of Europe 2020 unit on social protection. The following sessions focused on the role of the new social dimension of the EMU and the European Social Charter in setting social standards. The seminar discussed draft recommendations which will be presented to the Intergroup Event celebrating the International Day on the 17th.
Emmaus, Eurodiaconia, Salvation Army, Caritas, Social Platform, ATD Fourth World, Conference of European churches, European Committee of Social Rights from the Council of Europe, Social Affairs of the Permanent Representative Belgium also took part. The event ended with the presentation of the conclusions of the Intergroup on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
Venue: House of Cities, Municipalities and Regions in the Luxembourg Room, 1st floor, Square de Meeus, 1. See programme of the day here.
Introduction on the event ‘Bridging the Gap’
The event will take place on 16 October, one day before the International Day of the Eradication of Poverty. On 17 October, the Intergroup on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights will organise the event ‘Working together towards a world without discrimination: building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty’. The event ‘Bridging the Gap’ will focus on the situation within the EU and aims at contributing to the work of the intergroup by looking in detail at the various EU-instruments. Thus, the two events are fully complementary.
The timing of the event is no coincidence: on 15 October, the EPSCO Council will discuss the Commission’s proposals for the social dimension of the EMU. On 24 October, the European Council will also discuss this issue. The event could therefore inspire the EP, the Commission and the Council on the way forward.
It is estimated that at this moment there are 26 million unemployed and 120 million people experiencing poverty or social exclusion in the EU. Although through Europe 2020 it was agreed that by 2020 there should be 20 million people in poverty less in the EU, this (even modest) objective does not seem to be met. On the contrary, the number seems to be rising, if anything.
Of course, the current economic crisis makes it difficult to reduce the current unemployment and poverty rates. However, the question arises whether the current policies of the EU, focusing, as they do, on austerity as well as on economic growth, will bring about the poverty reduction needed by themselves or whether more targeted measures at national and European level are needed.
The event aims at exploring the field. It consists of three parts. The first part evaluates the functioning of the Europe 2020 strategy and looks into the current European Semester and its shortcomings. The second part is devoted to measures needed to change the focus on the European semester and to the recent proposals of the European Commission on the Social Dimension of the European Monetary Union. The third and final part is devoted to the current European standards on social rights and their role in the context of fighting poverty.
Each of these parts will result in concrete recommendations. These recommendations will be presented to the EP’s Intergroup on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. Eventually, the recommendations should become part of a Manifesto that can be submitted to candidate MEPs for their support in the run-up to the 2014 European elections. We also ask the Intergroup to send the recommendations to the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission. The recommendations are work in progress: they can be further defined, for example, as soon as the Commission’s proposal for the social dimension is available.