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Brussels, 16 May 2008

EU listens to people experiencing poverty to help improve their lives

Around 200 Europeans on the front line of the battle against social exclusion will today meet EU and national policy makers in Brussels for a direct dialogue. They will discuss issues ranging from minimum income to housing, social services and services of general interest. The annual event aims to include marginal groups in the process of seeking solutions and building policies to improve their lives.

"Around 78 million Europeans live at risk of poverty, 19 million of whom are children," said EU Employment Commissioner Vladimír Špidla. "We need to ensure that the benefits of economic progress also reach those at the margins of society and contribute to strengthening social cohesion. This event is unique in directly involving those at the hard end – people experiencing poverty – in this process."

Poverty and exclusion remain significant challenges in the European Union, with 16% of the population at risk of poverty. The EU's latest Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion emphasised that social protection reforms and active inclusion policies have contributed to higher growth and more jobs in Europe over the past year. However, more still needs to be done to ensure that the benefits of an improved economic framework reach those at the margins of society and improve social cohesion.

The EU's Open Method of Coordination provides a framework for action by Member States by promoting the development of national strategies and policy coordination between Member States on poverty and social exclusion issues. Participation by actors such as NGOs, social partners and local and regional authorities is an important part of this process.

Today's event will welcome over 200 participants, including delegations of people experiencing poverty from 27 countries, together with representatives of national governments, EU institutions and European NGOs. The event, which will continue tomorrow, is jointly organised together with the Slovene Presidency of the EU and the European Anti-Poverty Network.

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