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Procedure : 2005/2097(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0028/2006

Texts tabled :

A6-0028/2006

Debates :

PV 14/03/2006 - 19
CRE 14/03/2006 - 19

Votes :

PV 15/03/2006 - 4.9
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0089

Debates
Tuesday, 14 March 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

19. Social protection and inclusion (debate)
PV
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  President. The next item is the report (A6-0028/2006) by Mrs Bauer, on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on social protection and social inclusion (2005/2097(INI)).

 
  
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  Edit Bauer (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (HU) Mr President, at midday today, President Horst Köhler stated that many people fail to understand present-day Europe. If somebody sees the enormous amounts of energy that Europe has been investing in the reformulation of its migration policy, I am convinced that they would find the problem of child poverty in Europe incomprehensible.

While we talk about the lack of highly trained migrants, we register unavoidable and huge losses as a result of child poverty, losses that future generations will rightly call us to account for.

Therefore, it is not a mere coincidence that the report on social protection and social inclusion tabled before you focuses mainly on child poverty, because while 15% of European citizens are at risk of poverty, this figure is 19% in the case of children, and based on 2004 data, in 12 of the 25 member states the risk of child poverty is at least 25% higher than in the adult population. I would like to emphasise that this is not an emotional or perhaps a legal issue, because the International Convention on the Rights of the Child contains binding clauses in this respect.

Europe is also faced with the problem that in the following decades, as a result of the population growth crisis and the aging of society, it will need fifty million new migrants in order to maintain current employment levels. Child poverty, the exclusion that accompanies it and the high rate of early school-leaving cast a doubt on the possibility of developing a knowledge-based society without leaving social strata further and further behind.

The Commission is right to treat the issue of child poverty with priority, but on the other hand we find that we do not have accurate data, that there are no comparable data concerning child poverty. It is obvious that this situation must be rectified urgently.

In my report I would have liked to emphasise that social inclusion represents added value to the Lisbon process. European social policy requires a new solidarity between generations, because the damage caused to the human resources of the future by child poverty and the related undereducation should not be underestimated.

I could obviously mention many other problems presented in the report, but as time is short I shall only mention one more, namely the displacement of older work force from the labour market. Although there is an anti-discrimination directive in place in this area, discrimination still exists, but it is more difficult to track. I am convinced that the Commission chose the right direction when it set clear and traceable objectives for the modernisation of social protection. And last, but not least, I would like to thank the Secretariat of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs for their excellent cooperation, and to express my thanks for the amendment proposal of my colleagues. And not least, I would also like to thank them for being here and participating in the debate.

 
  
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  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you all very much, especially the rapporteur, Mrs Bauer, for her report, and I am delighted that I can report complete agreement between yourselves and the Commission regarding the fact that the Lisbon Strategy is based on the positive combined operation of economic policy, employment policy and social policy. I appreciate the backing expressed in the report for the Commission’s initiative aimed at modernising and making more effective the open method of coordination for the areas of social protection and social inclusion. The question is one of how to contribute more through social policy to the aims of the Lisbon Strategy, while at the same time strengthening the coordination of these policies. Contributing more through the Lisbon Strategy process of social coordination involves developing active functions of social protection and demonstrating added value on the basis of the jobs and growth created. From a practical viewpoint, both the new common goals for the open method of coordination and the partial thematic goals just adopted by the Council will be carried across into national strategies. The new national bodies will first of all present a strategic approach for every Member State regarding the modernisation of their policy in specific areas. The Member States will then present the three thematic plans: social inclusion, pensions and health care.

The Commission has also adopted a communication that initiates a public consultation on possible targeted measures at a Union level relating to adjustments in minimum wages and the inclusion of persons excluded from the labour market. The consultation also includes the European Parliament and other organisations, of course, but in view of the theme under discussion it will be extended to public bodies at all levels, as well as to organisations, interest groups and social partners. Your report also ushers in the possibility of new inter-institutional agreements which would cement the role of Parliament in implementing the open method of coordination. It is true that the participation of Parliament in work within the context of open coordination remains limited by the fact that there is no overall statutory framework in place. For my part, I can assure Members that I am backing the efforts of officials in my departments to pursue further dialogue with Parliament.

 
  
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  Věra Flasarová (GUE/NGL), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. (CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I greatly welcome the report by Mrs Bauer, which we have debated in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunity and which we support. The report presents its aims from the perspective of an equal position for men and women, outlining the needs of women especially in the area of social inclusion.

I would like, however, to discuss not only women but also the ways in which poverty and social exclusion affect children and young people. Let us not forget how our attitudes to poverty in developed countries have changed compared to the past, in an environment where the display of wealth and prosperity has led to a lower living standard coming to be regarded as something diminishing. I would go so far as to say that it is viewed as a humiliating and abnormal state, which people can sort out by themselves. What I mean by this is that the media and advertisers present a picture of overwhelming affluence, and people who do not achieve this suffer from feelings of helplessness. Success and the material abundance that comes with it are apparently open to all, so that those who do not achieve it are excluded from the advantages that society has to offer. This exclusion does not relate only to material factors but also to education, health or security in old age, and is passed on from generation to generation. Children from constrained social environments have difficulty securing access to higher education, travel less and have lower living standards. Poverty is of course not as drastic here as it is in developing world countries, but even so, in the way that it is concealed through shame and statistically under-reported, it leads to feelings of exclusion from the normal world, and to a sense that something that is normal and everyday is at the same time unattainable.

Why should this be so? How do we explain to a child that, in contrast to others, they must do without various things? It is true that social differences have always existed and have determined children’s development over their entire lives. Never, however, has abundance been taken for granted as the norm to such an extent, and the lack of financial means has not excluded people from as many opportunities as it does today. This is the paradox of developed societies. A decent standard of living is more widely available than before, but so much the worse for those who, for various reasons, do not achieve it. I would draw your attention to the fact that this is not a matter merely of material effects, but also of inadequate social protection, above all in the case of children and young people, and this has both moral and personal safety consequences for the future of society, since social injustice leads to tension, which as we see all around us, can explode in the form of violence or can lead to a withdrawal from reality through drugs or escapist entertainment.

I do not undervalue charitable works, but it remains the case that social protection and social inclusion must be incorporated into a system, and people must be entitled to use it. Charity is a gift and in modern societies that defend the dignity of man it should be a matter of extreme resort, which cannot replace a good social policy that corresponds to the needs of Europe in the 21st century.

 
  
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  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (EL) Mr President, the first joint report by the European Commission on social protection and social inclusion is already an old text which was written in January 2005 and which needs to be examined together both with the conclusions of the Presidency of the European Council and the interim report on the Lisbon Strategy.

The Bauer report is a carefully constructed text and for that I congratulate its rapporteur. It is divided methodically and presents all aspects of the urgent need for the central objective of the Lisbon Strategy to continue to be a drastic reduction in poverty and social exclusion by 2010. The two rounds of the open method of coordination on social integration at the level of the 15 and, since 2004, the 25 Member States have demonstrated that the rationalisation of the open method of coordination needs to be safeguarded in social protection and in social integration. Certainly, economic growth and increased employment are the means by which higher levels of social cohesion will be achieved, in conjunction with effective systems of education and training.

From this point of view, the Bauer reports reminds us that measures need to be taken which aim to prevent early departure from education and training and help students who graduate with poor qualifications in particular to move into school and the job market.

Particular mention is made of investment in education and lifelong learning, in that participation is stagnant, which is why private initiative is also called on to participate in this. It is a very strong means of combating poverty and social exclusion. Attention also needs to be paid to eliminating child poverty and that is why the rapporteur, Mrs Bauer, quite rightly emphasises that the intergenerational inheritance of poverty needs to be addressed by speeding up the Commission's work with a Children's Charter, the objective of which will be to uphold their rights.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa, on behalf of the PSE Group. Mr President, I would like to thank Commissioner Špidla, and Mrs Bauer, for the report and for the initiative regarding social protection and inclusion. That we have close to 70 million people living at risk in the European Union is a shameful statistic and is not acceptable.

Poverty is a result of the actions of human beings and it can be resolved by the actions of intelligent human beings. We know what solves poverty, yet our economic system continues to reproduce misery for tens of millions of people and, as has been pointed out, continues from generation to generation.

We do so because we fail at national level to integrate the various economic, social, cultural and environmental policies that we pursue. We fail to mainstream the solutions that various boards and reports have identified. One of the single most important solutions is not, as is often argued, a job; it is actually education: education from pre-school, certainly primary education, and at a minimum through to secondary education.

Employment obviously plays a key role, but it must be remarked that too many of our homeless, and indeed our poor, actually have a job. It is therefore clear that the job must be a quality job with decent pay and conditions if it is to have an impact on resolving the issue of poverty.

I would argue as well that social protection has to be seen as broader than simply social security. Our public services should be seen as mechanisms for social protection. Health services, education services, transport and cultural services not only help to protect those who are at risk of poverty, but also keep tens if not hundreds of millions out of poverty by their very existence. If they did not exist there would be many more millions of people on the breadline.

I would argue too that the notion that social security is simply a safety net needs to be avoided and that in reforming our social security systems we have to give particular attention to eliminating poverty traps.

 
  
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  Siiri Oviir, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (ET) Mr President, esteemed Chairman, colleagues, the elimination of poverty and social exclusion is one of the European Union’s strategic priorities. The Lisbon Strategy’s interim report was critical of the Member States’ actions, or rather inaction. 15% of the population of Europe, or 68 million people, a third of whom are children, live in poverty. Disparities between the wages of men and women are on average 20% to the disadvantage of women. Poverty naturally breeds poverty.

Social equilibrium serves the interests of the whole of society. Personal failure is not the main reason why people fall into poverty. Social inclusion, taking every policy into consideration, and an end to the wasting of human capital would provide a direct stimulus for the progress that we wish to achieve through the Lisbon Strategy. This is also emphasised by the report presently under discussion.

Europe must get its house in order once again. The Scandinavian countries are a good example of this. These countries have economies that are without doubt within the top ten in the world, and at the same time have the most effective social protection systems.

I would like to emphasise particularly the call made in the report to begin negotiations for the selection of policy areas in which the Open Method of Coordination will be applied. Europe must consider that if we now have 38 non-working pensioners for every hundred workers, this may double in the coming decade unless a change in employment policy is implemented. This problem must be dealt with today, however. Lifelong learning and the raising of employment among older people are crucial objectives.

The legislation of several Member States unfortunately contains provisions that promote age discrimination in the labour market. Such practices should be eradicated from the European judicial area.

In addition to other risk groups, the greatest danger of exclusion is among over women over 50, and this becomes more severe in retirement. The fact that the report devotes great attention to this is very welcome. It calls on Member States to ensure that when their pension is calculated, women are not punished for gaps in their employment history arising from parental or childcare leave. A part of the report I consider essential is the appeal to all Member States – especially the new ones – to review their solidary pension systems, taking into consideration men’s shorter life expectancy and the great wage differences between the sexes, which are reflected in the size of the pensions earned by widowed pensioners, and often push them below the poverty line.

I would like to thank Mrs Bauer for her expert work, and I hope that the principles set down in this document will soon be implemented in the legislative practice of the Member States.

 
  
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  Jean Lambert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, I should like to thank Mrs Bauer for the work she has done on this excellent report, and the Commission for its initial document.

One of the points that comes through from the report is that there is multiple deprivation often linked to discrimination; that if you look at some of the groups that are particularly affected – women, as we have just heard, people with disabilities, those from black and minority ethnic groups and those both older and younger – you can see why the Article 13 directives on anti-discrimination are so important and why they need to be implemented as fully as possible.

The concentration on child poverty is welcome. We know that there are links between poor nutrition, poor housing, a poor environment – the poor often live in the worst environments – and poor educational prospects, which then follow through people’s lives and indeed those of their children. I welcome the call for a Green Paper on child poverty. We need to look at that in the context of social cohesion overall, because it has implications for the gap between rich and poor.

Mr De Rossa mentioned the difficulties about education and employment. The real cause of poverty is not having enough cash. You cannot simply rely on a trickle down from growth in the economy. You have to take specific action to address those at the bottom. Take the example of the UK, which comes out quite high in terms of risk of poverty. Despite the number of efforts made by our government at the moment, you see that the share of the poorest 10% in the population’s net income is 2.8%, while that of the richest 10% is 28%: ten times as much. You can see it in my own region, inner London, the richest area in the European Union, which also has tremendous levels of poverty. We need to change those percentages and increase that of those at the bottom.

I agree about the importance of public services and the role that social security has to play within this. Member States should be looking at whether their social security systems operate to allow people to go through training and to take up educational possibilities, or whether they in fact constrict them because these people have to be ready for work at any moment.

I would also echo the comments made about the open method of coordination and the role that the European Parliament should be playing in this, not least in reviewing the national action plans and their outcomes.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) Mention has already been made in this debate of the high levels of poverty and social exclusion, which affects over 70 million people in the EU. As the report says, in 14 of the 17 Member States for which figures are available, child poverty increased in the 1990s. The current trend is for the situation to worsen, with higher levels of unemployment, increased precarious and poorly-paid work, flexibility, the privatisation of core sectors and services.

Given that poverty is a violation of human rights, greater attention must be paid to its causes. Accordingly, the necessary measures must be taken to promote social inclusion, as viewed from a multidisciplinary perspective. Hence the proposals that we tabled, aimed at changing macroeconomic policies and at moving social inclusion, employment with rights, public health, education, and access to justice, culture and decent housing to the top of the political agenda. We therefore advocate replacing the Stability and Growth Pact with a genuine development and progress pact, and the Lisbon Strategy with a proper economic and social cohesion strategy. In turn, we believe that the accent should not be placed on the proposal for a directive on the creation of the internal market for services.

Experience has taught us that the open coordination method provided for in the Lisbon Strategy has not reduced poverty. As a result of the Lisbon Strategy, the priorities have been liberalisation and privatisation of public sectors and services, which have served to exacerbate poverty and hinder social inclusion. Given that these measures were mandatory, the open coordination method did not force any Member State to reduce poverty, and that is the difference with this hypocritical process.

Public policies are crucial to reducing poverty and to guaranteeing human rights, hence the need for, on the one hand, a universal public social security policy that is marked by solidarity, and, on the other, for the privatisation of health systems to be rejected, as we have proposed.

Similarly, the State has a vital role in guaranteeing high-quality public education and labour rights that do not infringe the dignity of the workers. Consequently, we insist that it is not enough simply to regret poverty. The neoliberal policies at the root of the increased number of people at risk of falling into poverty must be reversed. This is the challenge that we put to the Chamber, in the hope that this will not be simply yet another toothless debate.

 
  
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  Guntars Krasts, on behalf of the UEN Group. (LV) In paragraph 37 of Parliament’s report, which taken as a whole is to be welcomed, we read the conclusion that the rapid change arising from globalisation and the wide use of information and communication technologies increases people’s vulnerability to social risk. Globalisation and information and communication technologies are assessed as risks.

In my view, it is a society in which the rapid change arising from globalisation is not accompanied by the wide use of information and communication technologies that is under threat. Threats arise when the benefits of change are regarded as risks.

The wide use of information and communication technologies increases people’s educational and training opportunities, and also their opportunities to join the employment market, especially for the most socially vulnerable groups such as the disabled. With the help of e-government, social groups or individuals can be directly involved in social dialogue with national government. For this reason, too, in social policy we ought to emphasise those measures that help people to make use of these opportunities. Welfare society and information society development policies ought to be coordinated.

Let us leave fears about the rapid spread of information technology to the dictators of North Korea and Belarus.

 
  
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  Jan Tadeusz Masiel (NI). – (PL) Mr President, it is regrettable that according to the latest statistics, the increase in the number of billionaires in the world has not been mirrored by an increase in the wealth of all citizens. The opposite is the case. The number of people living in poverty is constantly increasing in the countries of both the old and the new Union. Clearly, poverty, lack of social protection and the necessary social inclusion are problems experienced more acutely in the new Member States. In Poland, for example, we have a paradoxical situation. A former Socialist state is now providing less protection for its citizens than states that have always been capitalist. To the social problems of the countries of the old Fifteen we add our own specific ones, such as high unemployment amongst well-educated young people or the lack of access to general medical care.

Commissioner, the Union is often criticised for a surfeit of regulations, but it seems to me that it lacks a particularly important one. The Union should oblige Member States to set a social minimum. This would enable all citizens to feel safe. In addition, it would promote social inclusion by lowering the level of fear about survival.

 
  
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  Tomáš Zatloukal (PPE-DE). – (CS) Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I feel that today’s debate on the subject of social protection and social inclusion is highly pertinent, since although there was a 3% decline in the level of relative poverty in the years 1995–2000, the level of 15% is undoubtedly alarming. I fear that, in view of the numbers and the current situation, it will not be possible to eliminate poverty and the social exclusion it produces by 2010. These phenomena are the result of structural changes that accompany the social and economic development of our society. There are changes on the labour market, technological changes in society, demographic changes, ethnic diversity, changes in the make-up of households and the redefinition of the roles of men and women. Assistance must therefore be aimed primarily at the groups most under threat, the unemployed, single-parent families, the elderly, those living alone, families with a number of dependents, ethnic minorities and disabled people. The fact that poverty often has an impact on children too is in my view extremely sad and alarming.

Of all the key political priorities for solving issues of poverty and social exclusion, I would emphasise education. The issue is to ensure the right level of education, a smooth transition from educational institutions to the workplace and the integration of disadvantaged groups into the education system through the use of e-learning. Education is not just school, it is a targeted system of lifelong learning. The fulfilment of these and other priorities requires financial resources, however. The new Member States in particular are not able to make sufficient use of the financial instrument for this area, which is the European Social Fund. I therefore call on the new Member States, especially the Czech Republic, to do as much as they can to ease the bureaucratic burden on applicants in respect of the recently drafted programme documents for the period 2007–2013. I would like to conclude by thanking Mrs Bauer for a fine report.

 
  
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  Karin Jöns (PSE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, pension policy, poverty reduction, and health and long-term care are key tasks for us and key issues for all citizens of the EU. Parliament must therefore considerably increase its involvement in open coordination in all aspects of social protection and social inclusion. The current procedure is totally unacceptable. The state of affairs we are discussing today is already outdated. The Council has already discussed the Commission’s follow-up communication. For this reason, an interinstitutional agreement is urgently needed.

The Commissioner has said today that he is committed to a dialogue with Parliament. I am most obliged to him for this, but we do not want just a relaxed dialogue; what we really want is the conclusion of an interinstitutional agreement laying down crystal-clear rules. Furthermore, in future, the issues of the reconciliation of professional and family life should increasingly be dealt with, and particular attention paid to childcare, within the framework of the open method of coordination in the field of social protection.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, increasing globalisation leads to restructuring of both enterprises and the labour market. Another consequence of globalisation is the emphasis on the international level, not just the local and national. There is a growing tendency for large enterprises to force small and medium-sized ones off the market, with a significant impact on the livelihood of the local communities.

The nature of restructuring varies from region to region. In the old Member States it raises concerns about job losses, and in the new Member States the concerns are about stopping production and wholesale redundancies. In the new Member States the labour market has been hard hit by the development of hypermarkets and supermarkets, especially those built in town centres and on large housing estates. These large shopping centres have wrecked the livelihoods of small traders and service providers in the immediate area, many of whom have been forced to close down. For every job created in a hypermarket, five to eight are lost in the surrounding area. Investors often fail to take the human factor into account, or the individual’s natural environment and historic legacy. Mrs Bauer was very right to identify this issue in her report.

To sum up, the primary victims of restructured workplaces are their workers and suppliers, including agricultural producers. Help and support must be provided to these groups of people. They should be offered the opportunity to find new jobs, new professions or new markets for their products.

 
  
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  Ljudmila Novak (PPE-DE). – (SL) I believe that the most socially committed country is one that creates the conditions for high-quality jobs and ensures equal opportunities for its people. And high-quality jobs can be ensured through investment in human capital, lifelong learning, the encouragement of flexibility in the labour market and through legislation that favours the economy.

Citizens need favourable external circumstances in order to do their work and be creative, as well as to satisfy their basic needs. It is a different story, however, for at-risk groups such as the elderly or young people without working experience, the sick, disabled persons and single mothers or families with several children. All these groups need our attention and help if they are to be socially protected and not excluded from society.

However, I cannot understand the Council’s decision, in the negotiations on the Financial Perspective, to reduce the funds earmarked for education and grants for young people, an area where relatively modest funds can be used to make a significant impact in education, the study of foreign languages, the development of international links and attitudes towards the European Union. We are striving for these values in almost all of our documents. While we continue in the European Union to adopt concrete measures that are specifically at odds with our words and our understanding, we cannot arrive more rapidly at the goals we have set.

Perhaps never before in human history time has passed by as quickly as it passes today, and there is nothing to indicate that this tempo will slow down. For this reason we also need rapid and simple solutions in adapting to these changes, in order to achieve greater economic growth and better social protection for at-risk groups in the population.

 
  
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  Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) Ladies and gentlemen, as a Social Democrat I believe that work is the only source of wealth, and yet labour is losing its position to machines – in other words, capital – as a factor in production.

Many pensioners in the old Member States enjoy a comfortable retirement, because the governments of these countries have legislated so that the workers are required to support them at a certain level, while many people who make do with a low wage when they are working in the benefit of society are in danger of falling below the poverty line once they reach retirement. In all too many of the Member States, pension systems are basically pyramid systems. I would like to draw attention to the fact that the last to join the system – the young – will no longer be able to find the people who are supposed to support them later with their wages. Their work, wages and financial liabilities do not make it possible to have children or save money.

I commend Mrs Bauer’s report, but pension problems cannot be solved with a single report. We can, however, take steps today to secure the future. Both state and private sector pension schemes must contain tangible money, and not be based on promises alone.

Estonia’s transition to a funded pension system has been successful. Europe’s competitiveness and sustainability would benefit greatly if the old Member States were able to replicate that success. I hope that our parliament will soon return to the topic of pension schemes.

 
  
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  Zita Gurmai (PSE).(HU) Mr President, The real challenge for the European Union is to provide an opportunity for breaking out of the vicious circle of social exclusion. It is unacceptable that 15% of European citizens, approximately 68 million people, live with the awareness of the risk of poverty, as described in the European Commission report released on 27 January, 2005.

It is unacceptable that social exclusion affects the most vulnerable social groups, women and ethnic minorities. These are the groups that suffer disadvantages in obtaining and maintaining a job, the wages received, welfare, healthcare, education and access to cultural assets.

The report states that in Hungary the percentage of those threatened by poverty is lower than the European Union average, that it is under 10%, similar to the figures in the Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark and Slovenia. However, in the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Greece and Portugal this figure is 20%.

Commissioner Vladimir Spidla emphasised in his speech that during their lifetime, women spend four times more time caring for others than men. When we acknowledge the social value of this fact, we will be providing a real opportunity for bridging the gap.

The poor and the vulnerable groups of society can only break out of the vicious circle of social exclusion if we create work opportunities for them, if we ensure a market-oriented training for them. Finding work means having an income, which facilitates social integration and improves the financial situation of the individual. This is the real challenge, let us meet it! I propose that the report be accepted.

 
  
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  Aloyzas Sakalas (PSE).(LT) I would like to thank Mrs Bauer for her skilfully prepared report. However, it would be better if we could see a system, showing which priorities need our attention first. In my opinion, the most important priority is the child, as he/she is the beginning, and an adult is only the consequence of the upbringing of that child. If children do not attend school, they will not have jobs to go to. If children are constantly hungry, they will begin to beg and even steal. If children experience violence or are sexually abused, once grown up, they will become violent themselves. If children have no parents or are separated from them, then the street will be their home. All the cases mentioned are a splendid pretext for the criminal world to give refuge to such children and to bring them up to be offenders. Such children will not enter the job market, as they can only do those things which are unsuitable for the job market. Therefore, the basic priority ought to be the eradication of the causes which make children unsuitable for the job market. If we fail to eradicate the causes, then the other measures named in the report will only be a battle with the consequences.

 
  
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  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome the high standard of this debate and of the proposals submitted by Members, and I would like again to confirm my willingness to work alongside you towards fulfilling the aims of the Union and fulfilling the role given to us by the citizens of Europe. I can assure you that the Commission is contributing determinedly to further raising the profile of the social dimension in the Lisbon Strategy. I would like to suggest to you some ideas for our work in the future.

We must first raise the profile of European coordination. We have managed to develop a balanced approach, which places emphasis on the need to combine social aims with financial targets. This is a great achievement and it is fundamental to reinforcing the faith of citizens in the reforms. We must enhance the partnership between the Member States and the Union. The European strategy for growth and employment and the social agenda do not belong to the Commission or to the European bodies. They are based on the obligation of all participants, Member States, European citizens, parliaments, social partners and interest groups as well as all the institutions and organs of the Community. Success in this partnership will require a clear separation of roles. The Member States will implement the intra-state level reforms and the structural policies approved within the framework of the revised Lisbon Strategy. The Union will continue to support reform efforts and will at the same time make use of all new instruments, assistance from the Structural Funds, respect for fundamental rights, support for social dialogue and the establishment of proven approaches.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.

 
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