European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion
The fight against poverty and social exclusion is a priority of the European Union (EU). It supports cooperation of Member States on social policy, employment, and social protection, and towards the development of a more inclusive economy. In that context, the European Platform set up by the Commission offers a framework for action to all stakeholders involved at national and regional level within Europe.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 16 December 2010 – The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: A European framework for social and territorial cohesion [COM(2010) 758 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion is a flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 strategy. Its creation by the Commission should support European Union (EU) action aimed at lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020.
Combating poverty at European level
Coordinating the policies of EU Member States is essential in order to meet European objectives on tackling poverty. Their cooperation is based on the Open Method of Coordination for social protection and social inclusion, and on shared statistics and common social indicators.
Their progress is monitored and assessed by the Commission, in order to meet the targets of the EU 2020 strategy.
In the EU, unemployment is the main cause of poverty and exclusion. However, the number of poor workers has also been increasing since 2000. Furthermore, some groups of the population are exposed to higher risks, namely:
- children and young people;
- single parents and households with dependants;
- people with disabilities and their households;
- people with a migrant background and certain ethnic minorities;
- the elderly.
There are serious forms of exclusion, such as housing exclusion, financial exclusion, fuel poverty (in particular electricity and heating), and exclusion from essential domestic necessities.
Objectives of the Platform
The Platform is to bring together all stakeholders involved in a partnership to tackle poverty. Such stakeholders may be Member States, EU institutions, or national, regional and local authorities, as well as the social partners, NGOs and persons who are themselves in a situation of poverty.
Their partnership is aimed at developing common approaches in all areas relating to social inclusion, particularly in respect of:
- access to employment, by assessing national inclusion strategies and European strategy to develop jobs and workers’ skills;
- access to basic services and social protection, particularly in the context of ageing populations and the increase in social exclusion;
- education and youth, to reduce early school leaving and inequalities in education;
- economic and social integration of migrants, through a new European strategy;
- tackling discrimination, especially against minorities, persons with disabilities and the homeless, but also improving financial independence and gender equality;
- access to information and communication technologies, network services, as well as financial and energy services.
The Commission encourages social innovation and the modernisation of social policies through exchanges of experience and good practices. The Platform supports the introduction of innovative social programmes, as well as the development of tools for cooperation among Member States.
In addition, the Platform fosters the development of the social economy, with a view to improving the legal framework and access to European funding, including the use of the 2011 Social Innovation Europe initiative. Social enterprises represent 10 % of European enterprises and employ 11 million workers, especially those in situations of exclusion.
These objectives should also be taken into consideration by partner countries in the EU enlargement process and European Neighbourhood Policy.
The Platform objectives should be met mainly by Member States and through funding from the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and the PROGRESS programme for employment and solidarity.
Similarly, the Progress microfinance instrument should help vulnerable people to create small businesses or to take up self-employment.
The Platform offers a well-adapted framework to ensure that European action to tackle poverty can be pursued. It thus enables actions undertaken during the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion (2010) to be continued. Its implementation will be evaluated each year at a large-scale Annual Convention that will analyse, together with Member States, the progress achieved during the current year, and will propose actions for the following year.