For a dignified life

Joint document: policy recommendations

At the end of the joint document “Do Not Deny Justice to Your Poor People”, presented on 30th September to the European Parliament in Brussels by Caritas Europa, the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CSC of CEC), by the Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops ‘Conferences in the European Community (Comece) and by Eurodiaconia, the Churches and Christian organizations of the continent formulated fourteen policy recommendations for the EU and the Member States to “combat poverty and social exclusion” within the framework of the Treaty of Lisbon. The social clause and fundamental rights. First of all, the document calls for the implementation of a new social clause in the Treaty of the European Union, recalling that “in order to live up to its principles and social rights” recognized by the EU, the latter must “assure the necessary conditions for every human being to live in a way consonant with human dignity”. The Churches ask the European Commission to include, in this regard, a “specific chapter in its annual policy strategy”, as well as to establish a group of experts to “annually review the implementation of the social clause”. The president of the European Council could reflect in his reports to the European Parliament after each Council how the social clause has been implemented. In addition, the Churches call on the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights to focus its annual work programme in the forthcoming years on aspects related to Chapter IV (solidarity) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.“General interest” services and minimum wages. In the light of the said social clause and of the protocol on services of general interest, the Churches ask the EU and its Member States “in cooperation with the Churches, Caritas and Diaconal organisations, to take action to ensure that quality services of general interest are universally accessible”. In addition, initiatives are needed to ensure “adequate minimum income” to the poor, and “the eradication of homelessness”. On this last point the Churches suggest synergy among the local institutions, estate agents and social workers, and invite the European Commission to strengthen platforms for transnational cooperation. The family and the protection of Sunday. Promoting alternative production and consumption styles, recognizing the “informal economy”, and introducing the use of new indicators to measure the “impact of poverty and social exclusion on women and on men”; putting value on volunteering, the “active expression of citizenship and contributing to a community’s welfare”, and unpaid work “especially in the family”, recognizing to those who do it the right to health care and to pension, are additional recommendations by the Churches. With reference to the Commission’s Communication “Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, the document calls for measures supporting families at risk of poverty, but also for the EU institutions’ commitment in favour of “more family-friendly societies”, for instance by granting child allowance for each child. “It is imperative – reads the text – that Member States should be given the flexibility to reduce VAT on all products related to infancy and early childhood”. The Churches also ask the EU to protect Sunday as “the collective day of rest”, with a view to “reconciling work and social life” and “in order to preserve the health of workers”.Greater investments. With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon the EU started a “transparent and open dialogue” with the Churches and religious communities. Referring to this commitment and to the principle of subsidiarity, the Churches, key players in combating poverty and “important providers of social services”, consider their active involvement to be “essential”, in cooperation with the representatives of civil society, in the “European platform against poverty”, one of the seven flagship initiatives planned in the said EU 2020 strategy. The last recommendation focuses on “investing more in the protection of poor people in the context of the review of the European Social Fund and the Budget”. “Reducing the number of people at risk of poverty should be considered a primary objective of the European Union”, states the text, which recalls how “combating social exclusion is part of the shared competence between the Union and its Members”. According to the Churches, to this objective “10% of the annual EU budget, which itself amounts to 1% of the EU GDP, should be devoted”. “Devoting at least 1% of the EU GDP to the needs of the poorest and socially excluded – conclude the authors of the recommendations – could be enshrined as a general rule” in the Regulations concerning the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund, which should be revised by 31st December 2013.

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