The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty should remind us all how current economic, employment and social crises have accentuated poverty in Europe and underline the need for more efficient, effective and adequate social investment and social protection.
No less than 116 million people, 23% of the EU’s population, are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with levels increasing and varying widely between and within Member States.
About 40 million people in Europe are suffering from severe material deprivation and roughly the same number cannot afford a meal with meat every second day.
The need for appropriate safety nets is therefore more acute.
For its part, the European Commission will come forward shortly with a proposal to establish a Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to complement the existing instruments of EU social cohesion policy.
The Fund would help Member States to provide non-financial assistance to the most deprived persons addressing food deprivation, the consequences of homelessness and the material deprivation of children.
In addition, it would help Member States to support basic activation measures and enable an exchange of best-practice at EU level, thus helping to improve national policies in this area.
The European Platform against poverty and social exclusion, launched by the European Commission in 2010, sets out actions to reach the EU target of reducing poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020. The platform is part of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
Key actions coordinated at EU level include ensuring improved access to work, social security, essential services such as healthcare, housing and education. The Platform also promotes better use of EU funds to support social inclusion and combat discrimination and social innovation to find smart solutions in post-crisis Europe.
Progress towards the EU 2020 poverty reduction target will be reviewed at the 2012 Poverty Convention on December 5-7 in Brussels. The Convention will also showcase new ideas on Social Investment and consider the Commission's forthcoming Social Investment Package and will feature a broad call for support for Social Investment in Europe.