These programs were the result of an important achievement: the recognition that the fight against poverty and social exclusion should be a competence of the EU.
As a sequence to the oil crisis in 1973 and its devastating consequences in several countries, the European Economic Community (EEC) decided to put in place programs.
From 1975-1994 the European Commission funded three Poverty Programmes where anti-poverty groups attempted to discover innovative ways of addressing poverty at a national level and also between different Member States. These anti-poverty programs co-funded pilot projects (testing and developing new methods), research (to improve the understanding of the nature, causes, scope and mechanics of poverty) and the exchange of good practice regarding the fight against poverty.
- 1975-1980: The first European anti-poverty programme (20 million ECU’s) developed a multiplicity of micro-projects and poverty overviews for each country. Perhaps its biggest contribution was the debate forged around a proper definition of “poverty”, which was included in the Council Decision that launched the programme in 1975. This definition signaled, for the first time, a convergence of views among Member States on the nature of the phenomenon. According to the Council, being poor refers to persons, families and groups of persons whose resources (material, cultural and social) “are so small as to exclude them from the minimum acceptable way of life of the member state in which they live” (Council of the EU, 1975: Art. 1.2).
- 1985-1989: The first programme ended in 1980, and was followed by a second anti-poverty programme (29 million ECU’s), which financed a range of projects as well as comparative research into the various definitions and measures of poverty (legal, income- related, subjective). There was an emphasis on the idea that poverty affected all Member States and incorporated insecurity, marginalization, deprivation, and relative and absolute poverty.
- 1989-1994: The third anti-poverty programme (55 million ECU’s), known as “Poverty III”, included a range of model actions and innovatory measures. It again financed research and established the European Observatory on National Policies to combat social exclusion and pave the way for the constitution of a European anti-poverty network.