MEPs sign letter demanding minimum income to help Europe’s poorest survive Coronavirus

A total of 23 deputies from four different mainstream political groups have co-signed a letter backing the demand by the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN).
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

27 Apr 2020

The letter, sent to EU jobs and social rights commissioner Nicolas Schmit, asks for a “framework directive on minimum income” and to include “minimum income” in the Commission’s work programme.

It is expected to be discussed on Monday at talks DG employment officials are due to hold with Schmit. The “social approach” to the recovery is on the agenda, including anti-poverty measures such as minimum income.

The letter is signed by the following MEPs: First vice-president Mairead McGuinness, of the EPP group; Socialist Pierfrancesco Majorino, co-chair of the Intergroup on the Fight Against Poverty; EPP member Cindy Franssen, co-chair of the Intergroup on the Fight Against Poverty; GUE deputy Marisa Matias, vice-chair of  the Intergroup on the Fight Against Poverty and Greens joint leaders Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts.


It is also backed by Socialist members Agnes Jongerius, Elisabetta Gualimi,  Estrella Dura Ferrandis, Alex Agius Saliba, Milan Brglez, Gabriele Bischoff,  Brando Benifei and Manuel Pizarro, together with GUE members Manu Pineda, María Eugenia Rodríguez Palop, José Gusmão, Leila Chaibi, Sira Rego and Idoia Villanueva Ruiz.

Three other Greens also signed: Terry Reintke,  Ernest Urtusan and Katrin Langensiepen.

Among others from civil society, the letter is also supported by Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty and Human Rights; Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary of ETUC; Oliver Röpke, President of the EESC Workers' Group and Piotr Sadowski, President of the Social Platform.

EAPN, a leading Brussels-based NGO, says “millions” of  jobs, income and living standards are at risk from the Coronavirus crisis “as people fall back on inadequate unemployment benefits or income support, whilst faced with rising costs, rents and bills.”

The letter states, “The progress we have seen in recent years on poverty reduction in Europe is under threat. Without strong and decisive action, millions more people throughout Europe risk being pulled into poverty.”

"A key way for Member States to protect people at risk of poverty is to ensure an adequate, accessible and enabling income support for all"

“A key way for Member States to protect people at risk of poverty is to ensure an adequate, accessible and enabling income support for all. The European Pillar of Social Rights recognises that ‘everyone lacking sufficient resources has the right to adequate minimum income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life’.”

It goes on, “If ever there was a time for Member States to put this  principle into practise, it is now, when millions of citizens are lacking sufficient resources because of COVID-19. This is a time for bravery and leadership and now is the time for the Commission to take decisive leadership and action.”

Their proposal, says EAPN, would “contribute to rebuilding trust in and support for the European project by millions of Europeans.”

On Monday, Leo Williams, EAPN director, told this website, “Adequate, accessible minimum income schemes are a strong tool to respond to this crisis. They are the basis of our social protection systems, acting as economic stabilisers, and reducing poverty and inequality.”

Countries with high quality and strong social protection systems are, he believes, amongst the best ways to protect people from the negative impacts of a crisis.

“Now is the time for Europe to use this crisis as an opportunity, to treat the eradication of poverty as a public good, beneficial for everyone in society.”

“The wide-ranging political support for this letter should reassure the Commission that political will exists for such an initiative.”

"This is a time for bravery and leadership and now is the time for the Commission to take decisive leadership and action"

Further comment came from Vera Hinterdorfer, EAPN vice president, who said, “Every crisis affects people in vulnerable circumstances the most. When you already live in poverty you have no resources, no money, no energy, no food saved for difficult times.”

“Every added restriction hits you like a rock, pushes you further into poverty and brings anxiety and fear, for example, the fear to become homeless. Every country with a high living standard has the possibility to grant people a life in dignity, a life without the constant fear not to be able to survive by introducing decent minimum income schemes. It is a political choice to help the ones in need.”

Also speaking to The Parliament Magazine, Richard Delplanque, also EAPN vice president, noted, “We are all experiencing a terrible health crisis today, a deadly crisis, that is challenging another crisis that Europe is trying to combat.”

“For many years there’s a crisis going on in Europe that has been devastating, namely the crisis caused by poverty. Everyday millions of people fight to be able to feed themselves and their families, have access to decent housing and quality health care.”

He added, “Researchers are doing everything today to find an effective treatment for COVID-19 but one of the most effective treatments for poverty is already known: it’s offering every European citizen a decent income, that makes it possible to live their life in dignity.”

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