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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Video message from President Barroso for public hearing on "Food surplus to feed deprived people"
25 April 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are all aware that the social and employment situation in the European Union is delicate. We cannot ignore the economic and social difficulties being felt in so many of our Member States.
With more and more people unemployed or dropping out of the labour market, material deprivation, poverty, is unfortunately affecting a growing number of Europeans.
I am confident that the strong policy response to the crisis will bear fruit and things will turn around for the better in the European Union.
But I am also aware that the most vulnerable European Union citizens need urgent help. It means help now. Not just when the reforms will produce results. The European Union cannot afford to turn its back to those who need it most.
That is why I made it a personal priority to ensure that the European Union would be able to provide assistance to the most deprived also in the next financial period.
I want to use this opportunity to thank all those of you that have been so supportive of this action from the Members of the European Parliament, and the European Parliament has been generally very supportive, to those of you who have a responsibility in the civil society in our Member States, including in the food banks. I know directly some of those experiences and you are doing a great work for social justice.
As you know, having this line accepted by all the governments of Europe has not been easy.
Against the background of the difficult economic environment, there was and there is strong pressure for the entire EU budget to be cut and this is happening for the first time in European Community history. Some are having doubts about the need for the European Union to assume responsibilities in the social area.
This is why in this context, we can consider the European Council agreement to ring-fence 2.5 billion euros, as proposed by the European Commission, for the new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived as a good result.
Together with other instruments such as the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, it will be part of what I consider to be a necessary social dimension of the European Union.
The Commission proposal for the new fund is currently before the Parliament and the Council.
I believe it is a balanced proposal.
It preserves some of the key elements of the current system, in particular the possibility to finance food assistance and to use food surpluses if they materialize.
But it also reflects the many facets of extreme precariousness and offers new opportunities to Member States to tailor the assistance to their specific conditions.
I am well aware that the budget is modest compared to the growing needs. But it can and will make a difference on the ground. And I want to tell you, because I visited some of those food banks, that indeed this difference is perceived on the ground. That budget can act as a catalyst. It can help improve the way national systems work.
It will demonstrate Europe's solidarity with those who have been worst affected by the crisis. More than ever, Europe needs today solidarity mechanisms and proper resources to help deprived and poor people who in many cases are living in a real social emergency situation.
That is why we wished to give it a strong social inclusion component so that material assistance can help the most deprived people take the first step along the path out of poverty.
The new instrument will thus plug a gap in the European Union’s social cohesion policy and represent the missing link with our other financial instruments, notably the European Social Fund.
We cannot forget that for many social entities, charity organisations and food banks this is a vital instrument, without which these organisations cannot fulfil their goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I trust that both the European Parliament and the Council will quickly find agreement on the basis of our proposals so that the new instrument can be up and running as soon as the new financial period starts.
I thank you for your attention.