ESN at the Committee of the Regions (CoR)

The European Social Network (ESN) took part in the Committee of the Regions’ conference entitled ‘Fighting poverty and social exclusion: What role for regions and cities?’ on 29 May in Brussels with more than 250 participants, including policy makers from all levels of government. Europe's regional and local authorities are responsible for around one fifth of government expenditure for social protection and services and therefore play an important role in combating poverty.

Lieve Fransen from the European Commission reasserted the Europe 2020 targets on social inclusion and employment and insisted that the EU wants to support the local level to invest in human capital. Frank Vandenbroucke, professor at Leuven University, highlighted the differences in child poverty rates between EU countries (and between Eurozone countries). He argued that ‘excessive social imbalances’, such as these should get as much attention as excessive economic imbalances. Thomas Mann, an MEP from Germany and vice-chair of the European Parliament’s social affairs committee, said the EU wanted to send a message to young people with the Youth Guarantee that “you were not born at the wrong time.”

ESN’s Stephen Barnett presented alongside representatives of the Commission, Committee of the Regions, EAPN and the European Social Observatory in a workshop on social investment. He reported that local and regional social services invest in people’s capacities over the life-cycle from childhood right through to later life. However, he noted that budget pressures were making it harder for them to do so given the high demand for the most basic services and benefits. Social services are responding with a mix of short-term cost control measures and more strategic measures to redesign services. View Stephen’s presentation

The two other workshops focused on aspects of EU Cohesion Policy, looking ahead to the new funding period 2014-2020. The Commission’s DG Regional Policy outlined future EU funding for urban and rural community development. DG Employment described opportunities for transnational cooperation for study visits, staff exchange, peer reviews and tool/product development under the European Social Fund.

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso argued: “If the EU's efforts to reducing poverty are to be effective then the percentage of future cohesion policy funding devoted to investing in people and in the fight against poverty and social exclusion must be credible. By the same token, the sharing of policy measures developed at the local level must be stepped up.” The CoR is currently preparing an opinion on the European Commission's Social Investment Package (rapporteur Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam). Its adoption by the CoR plenary is scheduled for October 2013.