The fight against poverty is about fundamental rights, not ideology

Written by Laura Agea on 10 June 2015 in Opinion

EU employment policies have so far made things worse for Europe's citizens, not better, argues Laura Agea.

According to the European Union's statistical office Eurostat, at the end of last year the EU's unemployment rate sat at 9.9 per cent.

This rate is still far too high and our member state governments must do more to immediately address this. The European institutions also have a role to play in this.

One of the aims of the Europe 2020 strategy is to reach 75 per cent of people who are employable on the job market.


Last March, the European commission sent the parliament's employment and social affairs committee so-called 'guidelines for member state employment policies', which are currently being negotiated among the different political groups.

After several months of work, it is clear that there is a mutual desire among MEPs to draw up a powerful and hard-hitting document to submit to member states in council.

As parliament's rapporteur on the dossier, I do not believe that the commission's guidelines live up to the objectives that Europe should be aiming for if it is to improve people's working and social conditions.

The previous report's guidelines – published in 2010 – have not been complied with and the situation has deteriorated considerably over the last five years.

Unemployment now weighs heavily on Europe – and has done so for a long time – therefore the institutions – and particularly the parliament – must deal with it on a fundamental level and with great urgency.

Measures should be implemented to provide support to those who are unemployed allowing them to lead dignified lives.

They should also receive assistance – in a conscientious and responsible manner – in getting back to work, by bringing their skills up to date and promoting lifelong learning.

This report's objectives cover a range of issues that should not be overlooked or underestimated by the EU – gender equality, employment opportunities for disabled workers and in the green sector, restrictions on undeclared work and greater protection for those who are self-employed, to name a few. These are all ongoing issues that call for quick and effective solutions.

Worker mobility is especially important – it should be guaranteed and promoted wherever there is a clear desire or opportunity for it, but it should not be the result of a shortage of jobs in the worker's home country.

Poverty is also a subject that is close to my heart. The 2020 strategy aims to reduce the number of Europeans living below the poverty line by at least 20 million.

Not only have policymakers so far failed to reach this goal, they have actually achieved the complete opposite.

It is no longer about living below or around the poverty line, but rather absolute poverty – a condition under which millions of EU citizens live.

As a solution to this, my report suggests introducing a guaranteed minimum income, an idea that has been met with widespread support from other political groups.

In most member states, this is nothing new, but in Italy and Greece, people are still denied this right.

The EU can only contribute to significantly reducing poverty if it provides adequate and proportionate support in all the member states.

his is not about ideology or propaganda – it is about granting each and every citizen a fundamental and sacrosanct right.


About the author

Laura Agea (EFDD, IT) is parliament's rapporteur on guidelines for the employment policies of the member states

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