The Third European Round Table on Poverty and Social Exclusion “Social inclusion in an enlarged EU: new challenges, new opportunities” takes place in Rotterdam on 17-19 October. This event, co-organised by the Dutch Presidency of the EU and the European Commission marks the International Day on Poverty, on 17 October, and is part of the EU Social Exclusion Programme. On that occasion, the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) publishes a series of position papers to promote an Inclusion Strategy which should be far more than a paper exercise…
“The EU Social Inclusion Strategy has, in the short period of its existence, put in place many of the technical instruments and institutional arrangements needed, to facilitate cooperation across the Member States of the EU in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. Political leadership and energy is now needed to achieve the goal of the strategy”, says Fintan Farrell, Director of EAPN. “Being active and being seen to be active on this strategy, is also needed, if the leaders of the European Union are to be in line with the concerns of people across the EU, in both the old and new Member States, who in successive Eurobarometer polls, have placed, poverty, social inclusion and employment at the top of the concerns they want to see addressed by the EU”, he continues.
This year’s Round Table in Rotterdam considers the EU Social Inclusion Strategy, and the National Action Plans, at a vital time. The forthcoming Mid-Term Review of the strategy, and of the Lisbon Agenda out of which it grew, provide opportunities to examine the direction of the strategy and the changes needed for it to achieve its goal of making “a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty within the EU by 2010” particularly in the context of enlargement and the streamlining of social inclusion and social protection policies.
68 million people living in poverty in the enlarged Union!
According to EAPN, the goal of the Inclusion strategy must be met if the European project is to retain support, and if the European social model is to mean anything to the 68 million people who live in the EU and everyday face the harsh realities of poverty and social exclusion. “To achieve this, the Member States and European institutions must give the social inclusion strategy the same level of attention as has been given to other EU projects such as the integration of the internal market or European Monetary Union”, states Fintan Farrell.
EAPN expects that the Round Table will make an honest assessment of the implementation of the strategy to date and propose the adjustments needed to achieve its goal. The new European Parliament and Commission must from the beginning give their attention to this strategy and bring the pressure needed to put the strategy back on course. The opportunities offered by the proposed new Constitution must also be exploited to their fullest to reinforce the implementation of the strategy.
EAPN believes that poverty and social exclusion are a structural phenomenon requiring structural responses. We see poverty and social exclusion as a denial of human rights and that the desire to overcome poverty and social exclusion needs to be met with the same determination that was and is applied to the abolition of slavery. Therefore EAPN thinks that the debate at this Round Table should be conducted from a starting point of how to build confidence in the EU Inclusion strategy and how to reinforce the strategy and should not lead to doubts about the ability or the necessity for this type of cooperation at EU level.
“The eradication of poverty and social exclusion in the EU and globally should not be a question of optimism or pessimism but a question of determination. This Round Table must contribute to this determination and ensure that we have a strategy that is informed by political leadership and not just a paper exercise”, Fintan Farrell concludes.