Material wealth in Europe, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) has continuously increased since the end of World War II. However, poverty is still widespread, the gap between the richest and the poorest is widening and the number of people experiencing poverty and social exclusion is growing. In Europe, high levels of inequality go hand in hand with high levels of poverty.
Inequality – in income, access to rights, access to goods and services, participation in society – is growing and has particular negative effects as regards gender, age, ethnicity, social origin, sexual orientation and disability.
The European Anti Poverty Network is convinced that these trends are not the result of the work of “natural forces” but the effect of unregulated market forces. EAPN is convinced that they can be halted and reversed. EAPN is committed to contribute actively to this process.
EAPN calls for a fairer sharing of wealth based on the principle of equal and effective access to fundamental rights for all and the primacy of human over market values.
EAPN calls on decision makers in Europe to implement a new sharing of wealth through:
- a better distribution of work (paid and unpaid), primary income (from work and from capital) and of time;
- a more equal access to the process of the creation of wealth: wealth primarily stems from the activities of people themselves when they are enabled to fully develop their potential and contribute to society;
- a reaffirmation of the role of fiscal policy: it allows the wide disparities created by the market to be reduced and high quality collective goods and services (i.e: education, health, housing etc.) to be financed;
- a progressive fiscal policy which also taxes the use of natural resources, capital and international financial speculation;
- the (at least partial) unlinking of social security from the labour market in order to guarantee social rights and security for those who cannot fully participate in the labour market;
- a rehabilitation of the role of public expenditure which should be regarded as an investment and not charges to be reduced to the minimum possible, as long as they are based on the principles of sustainable development;
- a concerted strategy to strengthen social protection systems in the European Union and in the future member states in order to raise social standards and provide effective protection against poverty and social exclusion for all citizens and residents. In this respect, it is particularly important to put in place adequate services addressed to children and parents;
- a redistribution in access to power and decision making between economic, political and civil society actors;
- development and dissemination of regular, systematic research on the distribution of income and wealth within the E.U and within the member states as well as research on effective access to fundamental rights.
To achieve these aims, EAPN calls for a new system of regulation at local, national, European and world level, in order to restore the capacity of all societies to determine their future in a democratic, participatory and sustainable way, for the common good and the development of all.