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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Closing remarks by President Barroso
European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion Closing Conference: final session
Brussels, 17 December 2010
Prime Minister Leterme,
Ambassadors of the European Year 2010,
Throughout 2010, the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion has been a clear symbol of the European Union's commitment to a society in which all Europeans have a place.
From its very beginning, this European Year has acted as a rallying banner for all those involved in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.
I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who have made the Year such a success. Your dedication and commitment to the cause of creating a better Europe have been inspiring.
I can assure you that the progress made over the last 12 months will not be allowed to slip away.
Last week the Council of Ministers adopted a strong final declaration on the European Year. This commitment defines priorities and objectives that will now be implemented by the EU and its Member States. Together we will actively contribute to a fairer society, with opportunities for all.
Our main vehicle for change will be the new Europe 2020 strategy. Inclusive growth is one of the three priorities behind the strategy. This sends a clear political message about Europe's commitment to a more inclusive society.
The need for effective policies and action is pressing. More than 80 million people live below the poverty line in the European Union. If they were a single country, they would be the biggest Member State!
This is not acceptable in a Union based on solidarity between people and nations.
Addressing poverty is also an economic necessity. We cannot afford - in the face of increasingly strong international competition – to exclude any source of skills, productivity, and knowledge.
If the Europe 2020 strategy is to be a success, we must make the best use of all means, instruments, methods and resources at our disposal – including human resources. No citizen in Europe should be ignored, or even worse, thrown on the scrap heap.
Yesterday, the Commission launched the Platform against Poverty, one of Europe 2020's flagship initiatives.
The Platform will build on the progress achieved during the European Year, and will provide a new framework for promoting social and territorial cohesion.
It follows the first ever numerical target set by EU leaders last June, to reduce poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020.
We want it to act as a renewed framework for action and cooperation, and to stimulate and support progress in reducing poverty.
The Platform will consolidate co-operation with stakeholders and will foster more involvement at local and regional level.
It contains solutions to deliver results across the different EU policies. We will develop new approaches such as social innovation and experimentation, as a guide for the reforms we must implement as part of our Europe 2020 vision for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
We will also be looking at how EU funds can better support social inclusion, in line with the objectives of Europe 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion has served as a constant reminder that together, we have the ability to build a better future.
It has shown us that raising the awareness of citizens and of society in general is very important for Europe to reach its objectives for social inclusion and cohesion.
I count on your support to make this a reality.