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Brussels, 19 October 2010
Speaking points by László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, at the press conference following the 9th European Round Table on Poverty and Social Exclusion
This Round Table meeting has brought together European and national policy-makers, NGOs and other stakeholders to discuss the problem of poverty in Europe.
Today Europe is one of the richest regions in the world. Yet, 84 million European still live at risk of poverty. This is not acceptable.
And it is clear that the recent crisis has made an already difficult situation much worse. Its impact – both economic and social – is likely to continue for some time.
Which is why the discussions over the past two days have been so important. The debate here – among others - has focused on active inclusion and the European Platform against Poverty.
Active inclusion strategies require adequate minimum income schemes as a truly universal safety net; employment policies that help benefit recipients retain a link with a labour market; and quality social services that help people overcome the social hurdles that exclude them from society and the labour market.
A few words also on minimum income: These schemes provide vital help to people in need in our society. They are up and running in a majority of EU countries and are a key tool to fight exclusion. They have also played a critical role in protecting people from the worst effects of the economic crisis.
Minimum income schemes should give the best possible and most effective support – one that keeps pace with living costs and is based on fair access.
However, when it comes to the question whether this should be regulated through an EU legislative instrument, I need to underline there is not enough support from across all of the European institutions to make it a reality. And the principle of subsidiarity cannot be ignored.
At the same time, more generally, we have seen the value of the European approach to welfare. Some social schemes may have struggled, but they have also protected many Europeans from the very worst effects of the last two years.
That’s why we need to make sure that social spending is as effective and as efficient as possible – particularly in the light of budgetary consolidation across Member States in the wake of the financial and economic crisis.
For the Commission’s part, in June, EU leaders endorsed our new strategy for jobs and smart, sustainable and inclusive growth: Europe 2020.
This strategy has given Europe's social dimension a new impetus, sending a powerful political message about Europe's commitment to a fairer and more inclusive Europe.
As part of Europe 2020 strategy, one of the great achievements was the agreement reached on the EU's poverty target.
To underpin and support the progress towards the Europe 2020 objectives and poverty target, I intend to launch a European Platform against Poverty. This will serve as a visible expression of solidarity towards the most vulnerable members of our societies.
The Platform will need to pay special attention to policies that can make a difference in terms of meeting the poverty target.
For example, I want to encourage the involvement of a broader range of stakeholders. Our key word will be: partnerships.
I also want to see how all policies that have a bearing on poverty – in areas like education, health, housing and urban planning – can contribute to improving the situation.
And finally, I would like that the Platform use all available resources – especially the European Social Fund, which is €10 billion each year until 2013 to EU Member States and regions.
None of this is going to be easy. And I know that in many cases it is going to require a major change in attitudes. And this is where you in the media have such an important role to play too.
I am also encouraged by the political momentum that has been generated through the 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
The results of today’s Round Table will feed into the Employment and social affairs Council as well as to the final declaration of the EY2010 against poverty. So it has been an important event and I would like to thank the Belgian presidency for their efforts, cooperation and contribution.