Poverty in Europe

In the European Union 78 million people live below the poverty line – this is one in six Europeans. For children the risk is even higher (19%). And despite the economic growth of the last couple of years, over 8 % of the working people also live below the poverty line.
These are the numbers for 2006 and show that the promises made in Lisbon 2000 – to make poverty history in the EU – have not been lived up to. The European Commission wants to do something about this now.

On 15 and 16 October the seventh European round-table conference on poverty and social exclusion took place in Marseille. One of the topics was active inclusion, a recommendation based on three pillars: guarantee a suitable income support, activate the connection with the job market, and allow access to qualitative services.

To make things clear: this is a recommendation and not a directive. According to Jérôme Vignon (director of the directorat for Jobs, Social Affaires and Equal Opportunities at the European Commission) this is because there’s a different economic reality in each European member-state. The minimum wages in Finland and the Netherlands cannot be compared to those in Poland or Romania for instance. ‘Even more so than with the means, each country needs to come up with an effective strategy’, says European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla. The European Commission wants to coordinate in the field of poverty reduction, not harmonize.

According to critics, the recommendation is just recycling the things that have already been said years ago. And the current financial crisis shows where the priorities lie for the European leaders. The two-day conference in Marseille was the kick-off for the preparations for 2010, the European Year against Poverty and Social Exclusion. For this campaign the government and the civil society are working together, and a budget of 27 million euro needs to be made available. 17 Million will be provided by the European Union.
The fact that the current financial crisis will further enhance poverty and social exclusion, is clear to everyone. The member-states need to be prepared for what’s coming next, is the general warning. But on the other hand, it’s that very same financial crisis that makes the national budgets for poverty reduction smaller as well. (sb)

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