A €3.5 billion Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) is poised to replace and expand on the EU food aid programme discontinued last year. It aims to support MemberState schemes providing food to the poorest, as well as clothing and other essential goods to the most deprived.
Poverty and social exclusion in the European Union
In 2012, around 125 million people – a quarter of the EU28 population – were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This means they were in at least one of the following situations: at risk of poverty (17% of the total population), severely materially deprived (9.9%) or living in households with very low work intensity (10.4%). One of the aims of the Europe 2020 strategy is to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by the end of the decade.
EU response to material deprivation
Since 1987, the EU’s Food Distribution programme for the Most Deprived People (MDP) has been an important source of food provision for the least fortunate, making meaningful use of agricultural surpluses. With the reduction of these so-called intervention stocks and a judgment by the Court of Justice of the EU ruling out the use of EU funds to purchase food, the MDP was discontinued at the end of 2013.
At a time when needs are increasing, the risk of a cut in the EU support provided to the most deprived has been heavily criticised by civil society organisations, the European Parliament (EP), the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR). The European Parliament called on the Commission to maintain a food aid programme.
A new European Fund
On 24 October 2012, the Commission announced a proposal to set up a new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived for the period 2014-20, with an anticipated budget of €2.5 billion.
The Fund aims to alleviate the worst forms of poverty by providing non-financial assistance to the most disadvantaged people, and has a broader scope than the MDP. The major means of aid should remain food assistance, but Member States can choose whether to distribute food and/or other basic material assistance, or to address the most deprived through other means such as social inclusion activities.
Unlike the MDP, which was based on the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and in which participation was voluntary, the new fund applies to all Member States. It will complement other EU instruments which seek to promote social cohesion, in particular the European Social Fund.
In June 2013, in an amendment adopted in plenary, Parliament called for the global budget available for the Fund to be no less, in real terms, than seven times the 2011 MDP budgetary allocation. In December 2013, after intensive negotiations, an informal agreement reached in trilogue was endorsed by Member States’ permanent representatives (Coreper) and the EP Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (Rapporteur, Emer Costello, S&D, Ireland). This agreed text has now to be confirmed by plenary, concluding the first reading. The Fund’s budget will finally be set at €3.5 billion for the period 2014-20, which corresponds to the amount allocated to the MDP for 2007-13. Member States would co-finance 15% of the costs of their national operational programmes, with 85% coming from the FEAD (95% for countries hardest hit by the crisis). Implementation would be managed by Member States themselves, anchoring the new instrument in the principle of subsidiarity.