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European Commission's strategy for the EU until 2020 is deeply flawed

The European Commission's strategy for the EU until 2020 is deeply flawed and would not be acceptable under any circumstances as a meaningful basis on which to proceed to articulate a vision to guide the EU in the coming decade.

In a submission to the Commission, Social Justice Ireland has argued that: “the vision outlined in the Commission’s working document only contains very superficial ‘social’ content.”  It sees the EU as a social market economy. However smarter and greener such an economy may be, focusing on the economy alone leads to a fundamental failure to appreciate that economic and social development are two sides of the one coin. Economic development must be accompanied by social development and environmental protection if we are to have a genuinely inclusive, viable and sustainable future for the European Union.

The meaning of human development and wellbeing is being narrowed down by the European Commission to refer only to a narrow employment-oriented and consumer-based approach. Social Justice Ireland points to the wide-ranging evidence that, while having a job is a good protection against poverty and social exclusion, employment alone is insufficient to guarantee social inclusion. Active employment policies are very important but can constitute only one element of an overarching ‘sustainable development’ strategy for 2020. One in every three households at risk of poverty in Ireland is headed by a person with a job. Furthermore, the European Commission itself has concluded in the past that employment cannot represent the solution for all cases of poverty and social exclusion.
 
In its submission to the European Commission Social Justice Ireland proposes that the fundamental principles underpinning the EU Strategy for the next decade should include:
 
1) An ever more serious commitment to making the EU a genuinely inclusive and cohesive society: a social Union, taking responsibility for the people living in its territory, is ever more important and must become a priority objective;
 
2) A new emphasis on shared responsibility: rather than insisting on individual responsibility only, the EU should ensure that it’s Institutions, the Member States, local governments and all their agencies promote solidarity and recognise that these all have co-responsibility in delivering on an inclusive and cohesive European Union.

 
Social Justice Ireland is the Irish organisation working with Caritas Europa on issues of poverty, inequality, social exclusion and sustainability. Caritas Europa is a network covering all 27 countries in the EU as well as other countries in Eastern Europe and is supported by the European Commission.
 
The year 2010 has been designated by the EU as the European Year Against Poverty and Social Exclusion. The ‘Year’ was officially launched in Madrid January 21st.