Will the Commission ever listen to EU citizens and draw the lessons from its past policy options and the present crisis?

PRESS RELEASE , Brussels, 4 February 2010

Will the Commission ever listen to EU citizens and draw the lessons from its past policy options and the present crisis?

In a Staff Working Document published on 2 February, the Commission issued a very synthetic overview of the numerous responses received to the public consultation on Europe 2020 strategy. Although the document reports that “Stakeholders with a social vocation broadly support the Commission’s proposed priorities, but consider its scope too narrow”, this laconic statement does not pay justice to the issues raised by social NGO in their responses to the consultation.

“The Commission analysis of social NGOs contributions does not mirror AGE members’ rather disappointing assessment of the policy guidelines for Europe 2020 strategy proposed earlier by the Commission”, said Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Director. “We regret in particular the missed opportunity to approach demographic ageing as an opportunity and draw on its potential for the whole EU in the coming decade” , added Parent. The Commission should take account of the major conclusion from social NGOs on the strategy proposal, i.e. “…that the social dimension is weak, if not absent, in spite of the stated intentions”. “This is THE key message that the Commission should bring to the upcoming informal European Council on 11 February. It is urgent that EU leaders listen to EU citizens’ concerns and draw the lessons from the past and present crisis, concluded Ms Parent.

In the context of the 2010 European Year on Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, AGE would also like Member States and the Commission to respect the commitments they made at the launching conference to the Year held on 21 January in Madrid and, eventually, ensure that the Europe 2020 strategy is underpinned by a strong social pillar. The Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero on behalf of the EU Presidency stressed that “Growth in Europe should be based on social cohesion and aim to social cohesion, and the new strategy for 2020 must clearly reflect this idea.” President Barroso called for the reduction of at-risk-of-poverty rates by 2020 “…in particular among children and older people. This is because their current levels are intolerable”. AGE members believe that the EU 2020 strategy should reflect and support these commitments.

In order to guarantee that EU citizens’ concerns, including older people are adequately reflected in the discussion and decisions on the final strategy for Europe 2020, AGE calls on the Commission to make all consultations public and to allow enough time for an in-depth and balanced analysis of all recommendations received before it presents its proposal for the EU 2020 Strategy.

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