A just and inclusive Europe – POLITICO

Alpha Finn is the general secretary of the social platform.

This summer was supposed to be our first regular season since 2019. But for many, due to the rising cost of living, getting back to normal has become a distant dream.

As the largest leading organization fighting for social justice, members of civil society in the Social Platform represent Europe in all its diversity, and report that the citizens of the bloc are being hit hard, particularly those in vulnerable situations and on low incomes.

Older people struggle to pay their energy bills, and single mothers are unable to buy milk for their children. Overall, this fall and winter are shaping up to be astoundingly awesome for many.

However, as with most problems, there are solutions if the political will is there to embrace them. This year’s State of the European Union (SOTEU), the bloc’s main event, is perhaps the most significant in its history, and with European elections approaching, the Commission may be more aware of what people really want – a fair and inclusive measure for Europe.

Far from just taking a closer look, this is the speech that lays the foundation for next year’s work. But it has focused, too often, on the outdated “Jobs and Growth” model, without giving much time to the bloc’s social status. Faced with multiple crises, including the rising cost of living, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, increasing energy poverty and the consequences of climate change, Commission Chairperson Ursula von der Leyen has an opportunity to make this year’s speech relevant by putting concrete social solutions on the table.

newly Eurobarometer Scan It shows that 38 per cent, many want the fight against poverty and social exclusion to be a top priority for the EU. It also shows that 40 percent have reported experiencing a decline in their standard of living, and nearly 60 percent say they are not prepared for higher energy and food prices.

Von der Leyen now has an opportunity to show that the soul of Europe truly lies in shared values, solidarity and social cohesion.

This year, the European Union is likely to make unprecedented decisions regarding the redistribution of wealth related to windfall profits in the energy sector and other measures including caps. This is a welcome shift in thinking away from harmful austerity, but to properly address systemic poverty and social exclusion in Europe, minimum income guidance is needed.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen now has the opportunity to show that the soul of Europe really lies in shared values, solidarity and social cohesion | Photo by Joanna Giron/AFP via Getty Images

Poverty is widespread in the European Union, affecting one in five people. But the statistics also hide an important fact – people in vulnerable situations are more likely to live in poverty. It affects 30 per cent of people with disabilities, compared to 19 per cent of those without, and 80 per cent of the 12 million Roma living in the EU.

Guidance can prevent people from slipping into poverty and restore their purchasing power – even when they are not working. This will be beneficial to both society and the economy, particularly in times of crisis and as we confront the potential opportunities and pitfalls of green and digital transformations.

Von der Leyen will likely talk at length about the war in Ukraine as well, and we are no doubt expecting strong proposals to increase pressure on Russia led by President Vladimir Putin and address Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian gas.

However, as with the pandemic, we are once again seeing why an empowered civil society and the nonprofit sector are important actors during times of war and peace.

ILGA-Europe and Transgender Europe help the LGBTI community Flee Ukraine and get medicine crucial to living their real life; Caritas helps run a family sponsorship program to help families find their feet; The International Federation of Social Workers is created Community Social Work Centers; EURORDIS-Rare Diseases Europe has partnered with Airbnb to help people with rare diseases find the right solutions for them short term housing; Save The Children Romania provides vital and immediate services Support for mothers and children. And the list goes on and on.

Tens of thousands of national, local and regional organizations do the lion’s share of the solidarity work, often with little or no additional resources.

This SOTEU is an opportunity to pave the way for an EU Solidarity Strategy on Ukraine that goes beyond short-term planning, and brings together existing measures that keep communities and institutions across the bloc engaged, coordinated and supportive.

This moment in Europe’s history is crucial if we really want to build a Europe that is more resilient, socially just and inclusive, and to make significant progress in ensuring a decent life for all people.

The European Union says it is listening. I think we’ll find out tomorrow.

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