After four years of struggle to get visibility for the EU social agenda, EAPN welcomes the efforts made by the Commission in the revised social agenda published today, to mainstream the social agenda across all policy areas. However, EAPN is concerned that the package of measures proposed are insufficiently coherent to impact on the current levels of poverty and exclusion in the EU, to address the current challenges to social cohesion – particularly related to rising prices and economic recession and to reverse the growing trend towards the erosion of social rights.
“Today a large numbers of EU citizens share the perception that the EU leadership is disconnected from the everyday struggle of large sections of the society, in particular people experiencing poverty, to access their social rights and a dignified life” said Fintan Farrell, Director of EAPN. “The revised social agenda will fail to build a ‘social consensus’ in the EU because its major policies, such as internal market and growth and jobs, are not clearly re-orientated towards the objective of social cohesion”.
Fintan Farrell called on EU leaders “to have the courage to make cooperation in the fight against poverty, the achievement of high level social standards and the defence of social rights, so central to the EU’s mission that citizens are left in no doubt that this is one of the central reasons for the EU’s existence”.
He added: “With the defeated referendums in Ireland, France and Netherlands, it should become clear that to win majority support for its project, the EU must be seen as defender of social rights throughout all its policies and not just the promoter of market freedoms”.
While concerned about the overall direction of the revised social agenda, EAPN recognises some important steps forward in the proposals, including the intention to:
Establish ambitious European level targets for the fight against poverty and to establish a measure of well being which goes beyond the traditional GDP measure.
Strengthen the Social Open Method of Coordination, putting it on a more equal basis with the revised Lisbon strategy with agreed targets, recommendations and improved monitoring and evaluation.
Propose recommendations on active inclusion, including questions of adequacy of income support, access to affordable services and supports to build stronger links to the labour market.
Bring forward strengthened anti discrimination legislation although some concerns remain with regard to the legislation’s material scope.
EAPN urges the EU Institutions to build on these positive elements to develop a more coherent Social agenda. EAPN will respond to these positive elements and reflect further with its members on the proposed package of measures.
Further information about eh Commission’s proposal is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=547&langId=en