The President of the Commission issued her first State of the Europe Union (SOTEU) address last week. While the SOTEU recognised that we live in a period of ‘profound anxiety for millions who are concerned about the health of their families, the future of their jobs or simply just getting through until the end of the month’, it fails to recognise that it is precisely our political and economic systems which have led us to a situation where, even before the Covid crisis, over 21% of the population in EU was living at risk of poverty – 109 million people, more than 1 in every 5 people living in Europe. We can expect a rise to at least the levels after the 2008 crisis, probably higher.
Europe needs to respond to this, urgently, making this a highest political priority. We are concerned at the lack of political focus or even recognition of rising poverty levels or social rights in the SOTEU – we urgently need a European antipoverty strategy to address these issues, as prioritised by Commissioner Schmit. We need European authorities and member states to commit to social change, to improve employment and essential services, such as education, health, housing and energy, to combat poverty and the exclusion of determined way. The political focus on the covid recovery is of course imperative – and this recovery must take into account the reality of the impact of the pandemic on those experiencing poverty.
We are concerned that the number of people living at risk of poverty and social exclusion throughout Europe is only going to increase in the coming months and years, and we are worried that our
political leadership is not paying enough attention. We call urgently for a prioritisation of an anti-poverty strategy to prevent more and more of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers from being dragged under by the impacts of this pandemic.