At the Lisbon European Council of March 2000, Member States and the European Commission agreed to take steps to “make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010” and fixed the Union’s ten year strategic goal of sustained economic growth, more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. Fighting poverty and social exclusion is a key element in ensuring that the EU meets this commitment.
Member States since 2000 co-ordinate their policies for combating poverty and social exclusion on the basis of a process of policy exchanges and mutual learning known as the ‘Open Method of Coordination‘, which had already been used in the employment field.
From 2001 to 2005 this method only focused on social inclusion and was developed around a set of four objectives on the fight against poverty (access to resources, rights, goods, services and employment, prevention of poverty, addressing situations of poverty and mobilising all actors including NGOs).
Since 2006, three policy areas are jointly addressed through this process, now known as the streamlined “Open Method of Coordination on social protection and social inclusion”:
- The fight against poverty and social exclusion
- Adequate and sustainable pensions
- Accessible, high quality and sustainable health and long-term care.
The Open Method of Coordination involves:
- Agreeing EU-level common objectives (these were revised in 2006 to reflect streamlining)
- Developing common indicators to measure progress towards these objectives and ensure comparability
- Developing National Reports on Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion, which translate these objectives into policies at national level. The National Action Plans on social inclusion (NAP/incl) remain self-standing Plans and make up one of the sections within these reports. The years between the main plans are called “light years” and will focus on a key priority theme – In 2007, the theme chosen for social inclusion was child poverty.
- Establishing a Community Action Programme, promoting policy cooperation, exchange of good practice and European level mobilisation. This programme was replaced in 2007 by the PROGRESS Programme.
- European reports (Joint Reports by the Council and the Commission) documenting the outcomes of the process and highlighting the key challenges ahead.