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What is the EU doing to fight against poverty and social exclusion?

Plate with various euro coins, fork and knife lying on 10 euro banknote.
Anton Chalakov / Fotolia

European citizens regularly contact the European Parliament on the subject of poverty and social exclusion in Europe, calling for more to be done to help poor people to escape their predicament. So what is the EU doing about it?

Measures against poverty and social exclusion are among the specific objectives of the Union and its Member States in the field of social policy, as stipulated by Articles 19 145-150 and 151-161 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Title X of the same treaty, concerns social policy.  More widely, Article 9 of this Treaty states: ‘In defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health.’

These measures are based on the Europe 2020 Strategy and accompanied by a series of reforms and initiatives, such as the European Platform against poverty and social exclusion and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived.

Europe 2020 strategy

This strategy, ‘Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’, which was launched by the European Commission in 2010, is intended to enable the European Union to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

In particular, it established the goal of reducing by 25% the number of people in Europe living below the national poverty line and to take more than 20 million people out of poverty.

European Platform against poverty and social exclusion

This European Commission initiative was launched in 2010 to attain the poverty reduction goal presented in the Europe 2020 Strategy. The purpose is to bring together the various stakeholders in society to create a partnership between national governments, European institutions, local and regional authorities, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals themselves who are affected by poverty.

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived

This fund, established by Regulation (EU) No 223/2014, enables the European Union to support policies and measures pursued by the Member States to reduce poverty. It replaces the EU food aid programme. This material assistance takes the form of non-financial assistance and permits the distribution of food and materials and financing of inclusion policies. The budget for 2014-2020 was initially set at EUR 3.5 billion.

Role of the European Parliament

Numerous European Parliament resolutions bear witness to Parliament’s strong and determined commitment to combating poverty and social exclusion in Europe.

The European Parliament has decided to increase by EUR 2 million the payment appropriations for the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, as mentioned in its resolution of 26 October 2016 on the general budget of the European Union.

In its resolution of 14 April 2016 entitled ‘Meeting the antipoverty target in the light of increasing household costs’, the European Parliament ‘calls on the Commission and the Member States to invest fully in the fight against poverty and social exclusion and to adopt an integrated strategy to combat its various forms by means of a holistic approach linking economic, education, employment, energy transport and social policies on the basis of best practices’.

In addition, Parliament ‘calls on the Commission to study the possibility of extending the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived beyond the programming period 2014-2020, together with better coordination with other European funds, in particular the European Social Fund (ESF), and active employment policies, to facilitate the entry of the most deprived into the employment market and to evaluate the extent to which the most deprived and vulnerable groups, such as younger women, single-parent families, the disabled and elderly women have benefited from the programme’.

Further reading

The European Parliament’s research service has published an analysis of ‘Poverty in the European Union – the crisis and its aftermath’, which in particular presents recent developments in European policies on reducing poverty.

The EU fact sheet on combating poverty, social exclusion and discrimination and European Parliament news: social policy may likewise be of interest.

The European Commission’s portal Social protection and social inclusion also presents the support that it provides for the policies conducted by the Member States in the fields of social inclusion and protection.

The website which affords access to the law of the European Union (EUR-Lex) also contains summaries of the European Union law on the subject:

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