On 14 July we held an online conference under the title How to ensure the poor don’t pay for Covid19? Ensuring that short-term responses feed into an effective long-term rights-based EU strategy to fight poverty. The conference came at the moment of producing the results of months of detailed study including exchanges with our members in 25 countries and 3 European Organisation members, tracking the impact of the crisis on people experiencing poverty and the efficacy of the measures being taken (see below).
Sonja Leemkuil, EAPN Inclusion Strategies Group member of EAPN Netherlands and a person with direct experience of poverty participated in the study, and kicked off the conference with these words:
“Due to the Corona measures, we had to close Our DREAM from March 15 to June 1… Around me I hear people say “now others can feel what we feel, what it is and how it feels not to go out, not to be able to participate in anything and to have to stay at home all day long and live in uncertainty, day in, day out… We are experiencing this feeling for years because we cannot participate in anything, because we have no money for it. You cannot change the Covid 19 virus, but ..the Poverty virus can be changed! by making different political choices and by different policies, based on trust in the people in poverty, by removing the fear and stress from people and by treating each other equally and with respect, which returns people’s resilience, allows children to develop equally and improves people’s well-being.” See her full speech here.
The results of the full study were then presented by Graciela Malgesini, Author of the study and the report and Co-Chair of the EAPN Inclusion Strategies Group/EAPN Spain. See the 20-minute recording of her presentation below.
EU & UN responses were then invited:
“All people have the right to a life in dignity at all stages, this is underlined in the Pillar of Social Rights. Schemes need to set the right amount of Minimum Income; they should be made accessible and enable active inclusion”, said Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Jobs & Social Rights.[/vc_column_text]
“There is a gap between rights proclaimed on paper and the ability for people to take up those rights. People may have rights they never claim. Hence the participation of PEP is important in designing social protection schemes. If they are not able to assess and design them, there will be cracks in the system and people will fall in those cracks.” said Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
The discussion continued on to cover strategic ways forward and we heard from Herbert Düll, of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs who updated us on the planned activities of the German EU Council Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020 on minimum income. They intend to get “Council Conclusions on Minimum Income Protection to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion in the COVID-19 and beyond” adopted in October. The ETUC’s Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said “The EU must guarantee a threshold below which no Minimum Income will go.” Jana Hainsworth, General Secretary of Eurochild pointed out that investing in children is not only for the children’s sake but for society as a whole. And final panelist Cindy Franssen, MEP/EPP and Co-chair of EP Poverty Intergroup highlighted issues that the Intergroup is working on such as the necessity to have an overarching Europe antipoverty strategy, fight child poverty, support food banks and work on adequate income.
Further questions from participants on better support for families and coherency between economic policy and short-term investment priorities were addressed.
Katarina Ivanković-Knežević, Director for Social Affairs in the European Commission spoke towards the end of the conference and made this comment: “Member States have to go from seeing social actions as social spending to seeing them as social investment and investment in the future. We need coordinated efforts and actions! We have the instruments & should be ambitious!”.
EAPN’s priorities for EU action were then presented by Marija Babovic, Co-Chair of the EAPN Inclusion Strategies Group/EAPN Serbia:
- Ensure that current financial support measures prioritize protection of the poor and vulnerable and assess the impact – through a comprehensive assessment on who is impacted worse and by proposing solutions to reduce poverty, inequality, gender and discrimination gap together with the groups themselves.
- Prioritize investment in universal, free, public health and social care, revaluing and compensating key workers and closing the inequality gap, paying attention to the social determinants of health inequalities.
- Adopt an overarching EU social and sustainable post 2020 strategy – AGENDA 2030 – to drive an inclusive recovery – underpinned by the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights that makes ending poverty a pre-requisite and ensures the poor benefit and do not pay for transition.
- Agree an integrated EU antipoverty strategy, as the main goal and framework for the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan in 2020, that reinforces integrated support to social rights. This should guarantee adequate income (through quality jobs, adequate social protection and minimum income), essential public and universal services (particularly health/social care, housing and education). It should include an ambitious 50% poverty target (AROPE), ending extreme poverty including homelessness. Specific strategies should be set for key groups e.g. a Child Guarantee underpinned by a 3-pillar “Investing in Children” approach, ‘housing first’ strategies to tackle homelessness and housing exclusion.
- Make the European Semester more social – ensuring poverty, inequality and social rights get an equal focus compared to economic and environmental objectives.
- Make progress on obligatory Social Rights: Propose an EU Framework Directive to guarantee adequate Minimum Incomes, and an EU framework on Fair Minimum Wages.
- Ensure the EU Recovery plan benefits the poor and vulnerable, including through ‘Just Transition’: investing 30% of ESF+ on social inclusion, gender equality, the fight against discrimination – investing in affordable, energy-efficient social housing, universal public health and care, and personalized social services targeting key at risk groups
- Give priority to participation and democracy! Creating meaningful dialogue with people experiencing poverty and Civil Society Organizations, as with social partners in the European Semester building on the Employment Guidelines Recital 10. Enforce EU acquis regarding rule of law and democracy, defending CSOs freedom of voice and action.
- Reject austerity in Europe and progress towards a macroeconomic framework that prioritises the fight against poverty and inequality. This can only be done with fair redistribution measures that reduce inequality between the wealthy and the poor. Impose taxation that makes wealthier businesses and individuals help pay the costs of rescue and recovery packages.
 EAPN: Delivering Agenda 2030 for people and planet: EAPN proposals for a post Europe 2020 strategy (2019)
Access the conference report here
View the full recording
The video begins at 00:00:35.
Speakers and presentations
- Graciela Malgesini, Author of the EAPN Covid-19 impact study and Co-Chair of the EAPN EU Inclusion Strategies Group/EAPN ES – see her presentation of the findings and recommendations
- Sonja Leemkuil, Activist with direct experience of poverty, EAPN EU Inclusion Strategies Group//EAPN NL – see her presentation as a participant in the study
- Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Job and Social Rights
- Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
- Esther Lynch, Deputy General Secretary, ETUC
- Jana Hainsworth, General Secretary, Eurochild
- Cindy Franssen, MEP/EPP, Co-Chair of Intergroup on poverty – see the Intergroup’s call for action on Covid-19
- Katarina Ivanković Knežević, Director for Social Affairs, DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, European Commission
- Marija Babovic, Co-Chair of the EAPN EU Inclusion Strategies Group/EAPN RS – see the EAPN priorities she presented to sum up the conference
View the video of the conference here, and follow the conversation on Twitter @EAPNEurope : #FightCovid19 #FightPoverty
The current Covid-19 pandemic is decimating Europe, with a far-reaching social impact, particularly on the poor and most vulnerable who are hardest hit. This is already leading to a substantial increase in poverty and inequality, unequally spread across different regions and countries (see EAPN’s Covid-19 Statement). Most Member States have developed immediate aid packages which in many cases directly benefit the poor and vulnerable. Most however are only temporary. Will these deliver concrete results for people experiencing poverty? Will these short-term measures feed into a progressive, rights-based EU strategy to fight poverty? What needs to be done to ensure this outcome?
EAPN and its members responded quickly to the outbreak of the virus with a Statement and letter to the European Council on key measures as well as a letter to Commissioner Schmit, signed by large number of MEPs and key stakeholders. See our dedicated online resource, including voices from the ground, here. Over May-June we carried out a detailed study including webinar exchanges with our members in 32 countries, tracking the impact of the crisis on people experiencing poverty and the efficacy of the measures being taken.
In the longer term, we want to see these measures underpinned by an EU integrated strategy to fight poverty, that invests in adequate incomes (decent wages, adequate minimum income and social protection) and access to essential services, as part of the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights. Adopting a social and sustainable Agenda 2030 strategy, that makes ending poverty a pre-requisite, will be key to ensuring real results for people experiencing poverty. (See EAPN’s position Paper on post 2020: Delivering Agenda 2030 for people and planet).
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This event was supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” (2014-2020). The information contained does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission. For further information please consult: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi.