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Brussels, 15 October 2010

Presidents of Commission, Parliament and European Council discuss the fight against poverty and social exclusion with representatives of philosophical non-confessional organisations

Today around eighteen representatives of philosophical non-confessional organisations met in Brussels with President José Manuel Barroso, Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament and Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council. They discussed effective ways of combating poverty and social exclusion as an imperative for European governance.

For the first time this meeting takes place in the new context of the Lisbon Treaty which foresees in its Art 17 that the Union maintains an "open, transparent and regular dialogue" with religion, churches and communities of conviction. Today's meeting testifies of the importance that European institutions give to this dialogue.

José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President said: "In the European Union we cannot except poverty and social exclusion. The strength of our Union is and will be measured by the way we help the most vulnerable! This Union wants to promote growth, but not any kind of growth. We want inclusive growth in a social market economy. Today's meeting is a great opportunity for mobilising all sectors of society, including philosophical and non-confessional organisations, towards these aims."

Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament added: " Tackling poverty is at the heart of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion and the European Parliament has always taken a firm stand against poverty and social exclusion. We must engage all concerned groups and this European Year offers a valuable opportunity for dialogue between all those who have a role to play in this crucial area. I look forward to hearing from the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday 19 October in the European Parliament in Strasbourg who will address MEPs about the use of microfinance in helping people to get out of poverty. Also next week, MEPs will be debating and voting on a resolution on the role of minimum income in combating poverty and promoting an inclusive society in Europe."

Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council said: “Poverty and exclusion are a scourge, both in the European Union and within the European Union. Today's meeting provided an opportunity to raise awareness about this phenomenon. We also acknowledged the experience of humanist and philosophical leaders when dealing with this challenge. I look forward to further strengthening this dialogue. Our common aim is that people experiencing poverty and exclusion may live in dignity and take an active part in society.

In the European Year combating poverty and social exclusion 2010 and through the European Poverty Platform, European institutions engage in a dialogue with civil society, NGOs, public authorities and other providers of social services to find new approaches, actions and partners in a Europe-wide effort to eradicate poverty.

Promoting employment, inclusive growth and social cohesion is at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy. Progress will be measured by three major indicators, namely at-risk-of-poverty; material deprivation, and jobless households. These EU indicators and the regular monitoring of progress will provide accountability of the Member States.

Two other headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy reflect the need to improve equity and quality in education: reducing school-drop-out rates to less than 10% and increasing the share of 30-34 years old having completed tertiary or equivalent education to at least 40% by 2020.

Today's discussion took place in a frank and open spirit. The representatives come from eleven Member States (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Ireland) and expressed their support for the Europe2020 strategy and its social and education targets.

They underlined their continued commitment to foster social cohesion and increase a sense of solidarity and civic engagement among Europeans. They emphasised that overcoming the current crisis will only be possible when people and social justice are at the heart of European policies.

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for inter-institutional relations and administration also attended the meeting.


List of participants: see MEMO/10/495

Meetings between the presidents of the European institutions and leading representatives of philosophical and non-confessional organisations have taken place on several occasions in the past. The latest of these meetings took place on 26th June 2009. See IP/09/1046

On 19 July 2010 the three Presidents met with religious leaders to discuss the same topic. See IP/09/967

Link to Europe 2020

Link to European Year for combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010

Link to key figures on social inclusion

More about the EU dialogue with religion, churches and communities of conviction

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