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British faith leaders join talks in Brussels on the fight against poverty and social exclusion
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19/07/2010 00:00:00

Around twenty senior representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim religions as well as from the Sikh and Hindu communities met in Brussels today to discuss effective ways of combating poverty and social exclusion as an imperative for European governance. This was the sixth in a series of annual meetings launched by President Barroso in 2005.

The Right Reverend Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, and Dayan Yonoson Abraham, Judge of the Rabbinical court of the Chief Rabbinate of the United Synagogue of the UK and the Commonwealth were amongst those invited to participate by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. 

José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President said: "In Europe, several million citizens live at the edge of social exclusion. A poor testimony for one of the richest regions of the world! As Europe recovers from this crisis, I want to see a generation of growth which integrates the most vulnerable into main stream society."

He added: "Churches and religious communities are important providers of social services in EU member states. If we want to combat poverty effectively, it is essential to draw from their long standing and wide raging experience."

The discussions took place in a frank and open spirit. The faith leaders from fourteen Members States (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Denmark) expressed their support for the Europe2020 strategy and its social and education targets. They encouraged the European institutions to further increase the momentum, especially with a view to improving access to the labour market, better targeting of social services in member states and ensuring equal opportunities with view to access to education and training.

The religious leaders also underlined their continued commitment to foster social cohesion and increase a sense of solidarity and civic engagement among Europeans. They emphasised that overcoming the current crisis will only be possible when people and social justice are at the heart of European policies.

The meeting was also co-chaired by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament and Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council.

    Background:

    This is the first time the meeting of religious leaders takes place in the new context of the Lisbon Treaty which foresees in Article 17 that the Union maintains an "open, transparent and regular dialogue" with religion, churches and communities of conviction. Today's meeting testifies of the importance that European institutions give to this dialogue.

    In the European Year against poverty and social exclusion 2010 and through the European Poverty Platform, European institutions engage in a dialogue with civil society, NGOs, public authorities and other providers of social services to find new approaches, actions and partners in a Europe-wide effort to eradicate poverty.

    Promoting employment, inclusive growth and social cohesion is at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy. One of the EU-wide agreed objectives is to reduce by at least 20 million the number of Europeans exposed to poverty and social exclusion by 2020. Progress will be measured by three major indicators, namely at-risk-of-poverty; material deprivation, and jobless households. These EU indicators and the regular monitoring of progress will provide accountability of the Member States.

    Two other headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy reflect the need to improve equity and quality in education: reducing school-drop-out rates to less than 10% and increasing the share of 30-34 years old having completed tertiary or equivalent education to at least 40% by 2020.


    Further information:

    List of participants: see MEMO/10/342

    Link to European Year for combating Poverty and Social Exclusion 2010

    Link to key figures on social inclusion

    More about the EU dialogue with religion, churches and communities of conviction

     

    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.

    Last update: 31/10/2010  |Top