Speaking at the First Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty, in Krakow, Poland, Commissioner László Andor called for greater efforts to fight against poverty: "We can observe an increasing share of people seeing their living standards deteriorate, especially young people, low-skilled workers and other vulnerable groups. This is not acceptable since combating poverty is both a moral duty and an economic necessity".
The two-day Convention was organised by the Commission and the Polish Presidency as part of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty to review the progress made towards the headline target of reducing poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020 and the implementation of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion .
The EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion explained that "if we add up today's national poverty targets, we are only on track to help 12 million people towards a better life". If spill-over effects of strategies focussing on, for example, combating child poverty or long-term unemployment are taken into account, this number could be increased by 25%. "This is still far from the collective ambitious target of 20 million people, set in June 2010", stressed Mr Andor.
"We acknowledge that these are difficult times and Member States are reluctant to make strong commitments in this area. But fighting poverty is a social investment. I hope that this Convention will be a stepping stone towards more ambitious targets", the Commissioner added. This is especially relevant as yesterday's Eurobarometer survey unveiled that Europeans are not very happy about the state of their national economies and welfare situation in their countries, but are largely satisfied and optimistic regarding their personal situation – "we must find ways to ensure that nobody falls out of the safety nets", Mr Andor said.
The Convention brought together around 400 policy-makers, NGOs and experts. The conclusions will be presented to the Employment and Social Affairs Ministers on 1st of December, in Brussels.
Commissioner Andor also visited two social inclusion projects funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) – the hotel and restaurant U Pana Cogito and the Social Integration Club in Nowa Huta. Speaking to a group of journalists after the visit Mr Andor said: "These projects contribute to integrating disadvantaged and tackling poverty. They are a success and they make me optimistic that together, at macro and micro level, we can reach our objective, of lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty by 2020".
Currently, 13% of the total ESF allocation is devoted to actions promoting social inclusion. The Commission has recently proposed an increase to at least 20% after 2013.