Monday, April 4, 2011
Europe must back ambitious proposals for tackling poverty with real political and financial support, warns CoR
Europe's ambitious goal of taking 20 million people out of poverty will only succeed if local and regional authorities play a key role in developing national programmes and if Europe is prepared to back national, regional and local authorities in their efforts, starting with sufficient funding through the European Social Fund. This was the key message in the Committee of the Regions' (CoR) opinion on the European Platform against poverty and social exclusion, adopted today at its plenary session in Brussels. Christine Chapman (UK/PES), a member of the National Assembly for Wales and the CoR's rapporteur on the issue, welcomed the commitment to involve local and regional authorities in the development of national reform programmes, due to be published by member states in mid-April, but remained sceptical about the quality of the contributions.
"The real test of this flagship initiative within the Europe2020 programme will be its success on the ground, and it is here that the input of local and regional authorities will be vital, as they are the ones providing the social services on the ground and who understand best the scale of the challenge and the potential solutions. That is why I would have liked to have seen some guidelines from the European Commission on how local and regional authorities should be involved in the development of national reform programmes, to ensure that their contributions are genuine and pertinent."
The Committee called on the European Commission to ensure that it gave sufficient support for national, local and regional authorities in their efforts to achieve the aims of this European flagship initiative. "Since social policy is an area where Europe has no specific competence, the Commission will have to work in other ways to ensure that its goals are met – for example through ensuring that the European Social Fund is expanded to cover not only projects relating to employment but also to those that are designed to tackle poverty and exclusion," Chapman added.
The Committee's opinion was developed with additional input from local and regional authorities across Europe on the basis of a survey carried out by the CoR's Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform. A key issue identified by a large majority of respondents to the survey was the extent to which investing in programmes designed to tackle poverty and exclusion should be made obligatory for local and regional authorities under future EU regional programmes, although some respondents felt that such an obligation would limit their potential to use EU funds for investing in other priority areas. The CoR's final opinion will however include the suggestion that funding for social exclusion issues should be made obligatory in the future.
There was also a broad consensus that the CoR should encourage the Commission to take a more active approach to tackling child poverty in particular. Chapman was particularly disappointed that the proposals from the Commission were not sufficiently ambitious in this area: “Urgent action is required now, not in 2012 or later – and the Commission should have been bolder in committing to a recommendation this year, as the groundwork for this has been laid by the work of the Belgian EU Presidency,” she said. But she added that she was pleased to see specific references in the proposals to tackling the exclusion of Roma and to reducing homelessness, both topics that the CoR has dealt with in recent opinions and areas where local and regional authorities have a key role to play.
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