The European Commission plans to change the way it measures poverty. At the same time, there is a debate going on about what poverty reduction rate to choose. With the Commission to release the "EU 2020 Strategy" in early march, civil society speaks out.
When the growth and jobs strategy was launched in March 2000, EU leaders pledged to make "a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty" by 2010.
And yet too many people still live in poverty with no access to basic services such as health care. 79 million Europeans live below the poverty threshold, 19 million of whom are children. This violates EU principles of solidarity and social justice.
The year 2010 was declared the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. This guide will explain the upcoming events and history of the European Year.
The fight against poverty, one of the five priorities of a draft ten-year economic plan to be unveiled on 03 March 2010 by the European Commission.
There has been an on-going debate between the services of the Commission, which minimalists won with a poverty reduction target of 25% by the end of the decade. The initial proposed target was one-third, which Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner László Andor and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy proposed.
However, critics are more than concerned with the target percentage, some critics are concerned with the indicators, which fail to properly measure inequalities. The basis of the poverty target will not be the relative poverty rate, instead the so-called "anchored in time indicator" will be used.
The relative poverty rate measures poverty by the proportion of people who live off of than 60% or less of the average income. The Commission in its Eurobarometer surveys have measured poverty in this fashion for the last ten years. On the other hand, the "anchored in time rate" measures economic growth and its impact on general living standards. Recent EU statistics show that 17% of people within the EU, or 80 million Europeans, are currently living in poverty.
"The proposal to establish the fight against poverty and social exclusion as one of nine key flagship projects within the Europe 2020 strategy gives some room for hope," said Fintan Farrell, director of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN). "But it requires that the EU leaders take a step forward and establish a target for the reduction of poverty based on the agreed relative poverty indicator as part of the 2020 strategy".
Farrell argues that the relative poverty rate is the most accurate indicator as it is pegged to income and living standards in the society in which a person lives. The ’anchored in time’ rate, by contrast, measures economic growth and its impact on general living standards rather than reducing poverty and inequality through redistribution mechanisms.
"The assumption that economic growth will raise the adequacy of standards of living of all, just as a tide lifts all boats together, is not often observed in practice," noted the EAPN director, who stressed that tackling poverty without looking at wealth redistribution "is like hosting the Winter Olympics without snow".
Along the same lines, Eurochild, the European umbrella organisation promoting the welfare and rights of children and young people, stressed that quantified targets to reduce general poverty are too focused on income poverty and material deprivation.
3 March: Commission to publish proposal for Europe 2020 strategy.
8-9 March: EU Social Affairs ministers to decide their position on Europe 2020 strategy.
25-26 March: Spring Council (EU heads of state and government) to discuss Europe 2020 strategy.
7-8 June: Social Affairs Council to decide on European Employment Strategy.
17-18 June: EU leaders to adopt Europe 2020 strategy.
On 21 January 2010 the European Commission and the Spanish Presidency of the EU launched the 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. Under the slogan “Stop Poverty Now!”, the campaign aims to put the fight against poverty – which directly affects one in six Europeans – centre stage across the EU during 2010. The campaign website (www.2010againstpoverty.eu) includes a partners’ platform to stimulate networking and joint initiatives among key actors, such as civil society organisations, local and regional authorities.
In June 2009, EPHA was involved in the preparation of the European Year at a meeting organised by the European Anti-Poverty Network.
Anne Degrand Guillaud – DG Empl, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunity, Head of Unit, Coordinator of the European Year - gave an update on the preparation of the European Year. The deadline for Member States to submit their proposals for the public authority to act as the National Implementing Body (NIB) was 15 May. Very often, this authority is the one managing the social funds. The Commission is now in the process of formally endorsing them and so far 11 NIBs have been recognised. See the list here. After their official endorsement, the NIBs will launch a call for proposals by the end of the 2009 year.
The Commission informed participants that the campaign will be focussed on awareness raising. In addition, the Commission plans to develop a political declaration with Member States under the trio Presidency’s control (Sweden, Spain and Belgium).
Activities of various types are programmed. On 29 October, a conference will be held on “Crisis, poverty and the media”. Focus weeks will also be held.
Organisations interested in having their event form part of the “European Year” may want to contact the Commission. However, no specific funding mechanism from the European Commission is possible. NGOs may either look at the national call for proposals published by the NIBs or look at Progess - the EU’s employment and social solidarity programme.
In addition, DG Empl is planning to coordinate and create alliances with other DGs. For example, it is foreseen to create a bridge between the Open Days organised by DG Regio with the European Year.
The "European Year" will be publicised with two different slogans. The first part of the Year will take the slogan “Stop poverty now”, whilst the second part is considering adopting “Building a society for all”.
Concerns from the NGO sector
Most of the organisations present expressed some concerns about access to the funding from the NIBs. The Commission requires that, should they want to delegate/subcontract the organisation of events, NIBs must publish calls for proposals. Yet, many NGOs pointed out that NIBs in some countries have out-of-date databases in some cases they have already pre-selected their partner organisations before hand and make it very difficult for other NGOs to get in contact with them.
awareness-raising campaigns and studies;
innovative schemes to promote social inclusion;
competitions to identify success stories.
Activities will be identified and implemented at national level, involving civil society, local and regional authorities.
Budget: At least €26m (€17m provided by the EU) will be provided in funding. Additional funding may come from other public or private sources.
Since 1983, the European Union chooses every year a theme for a campaign aimed at raising awareness on a specific issue. 2010 will be devoted to the European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion. The European Commission published on 12 December 2007 a proposal for the framework of the Year
According to the Lisbon Strategy, the European Year as part of an evaluation looking at what has been done so far by the EU and its Member States to achieve the Lisbon goals of eradicating poverty by 2010. The Commission puts forward an approach based on a shared implementation between EU and national and sub-national level activities. For the co-ordination of events, the Commission will be assisted by an EU level Committee that will be entrusted with the drafting of a Strategic Framework Document including the main priorities for implementation. Each Member State will set up a National Implementing Body (NIB) to organise the country’s participation of the Year. The Budget will be of at least € 17 million.
A European Year is a significant tool to create a momentum around the topic where stakeholders can confront their views and put forward concrete proposals for partnerships.
The European Year is seen as an opportunity for:
improving understanding among the general public of the complex factors that cause poverty and the tools available to combat poverty and social exclusion such as the Open Method of Coordination (OMC); 
providing evidence for measures to prevent or reduce poverty;
emphasising the importance of the European social model.
The European Year also aims to reaffirm the responsibility of public and private actors in promoting social cohesion and economic development. Four principles underlie the outlined framework, namely: recognition of the right to live in dignity, public ownership of the responsibility to tackle poverty and marginalisation, cohesiveness of our society and long-term commitment to eradicate poverty.
Representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Spanish Presidency outlined the preparatory activities to be undertaken by each institution for the Year.
Luca Pirozzi, from DG Employment pointed out the foremost stages carried out by the European Commission so far, namely:
elaboration of the framework;
preparation of national implementing bodies;
preparation of media campaigns that need to be launched;
strengthening the OMC;
the organisation of specific events focusing in combating stigma, empowering people in poverty and breaking intergenerational circle of poverty.
Marie Panayotopoulos Cassiotou, Rapporteur for the European Parliament emphasised the gender and generational dimension of poverty affecting children and young people. To challenge poverty, importance is given to the implementation of multi-dimensional policies at different levels. Besides this holistic approach, she stressed the crucial role of ad hoc strategies to target vulnerable groups.
One representative from the Spanish Presidency (1st half of 2010) emphasised the vital importance of:
strengthening the OMC to share information and exchange best practice models
involving regions to enact actions at sub-national level.
Health is a part of the vicious circle of poverty: people living in poverty are far more likely to lack access to healthcare and health information and they are more exposed to illness, which will have a significant effect on their capacity to work and break out of the cycle of poverty. Therefore EPHA will take the opportunity of the European Year 2010 to raise public awareness on the situation of the EU as regard health and remind that it needs to be a priority.
EPHA related articles
For further information
 The Open Method Coordination (OMC) for Social Inclusion has been utilised as an important tool for supporting political commitment and strengthening EU capacity to support Member States to achieve greater social cohesion in Europe.