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13.5.6.  Action to combat social exclusion in the EU

    Social exclusion represents one of the major challenges facing the European Union. The challenge cannot be addressed merely by offering better assistance to those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion from work, but also requires active measures to tackle the obstacles to social inclusion. Article 3 of the treaty on European Union declares that the Union shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection. Article 151 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU makes combating of exclusion one of the objectives of the Union. To this end, Article 9 of the TFEU stipulates that in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the fight against social exclusion. Article 153 of the TFEU (ex Article 137 TEC) gives the Union a role in supporting and complementing the activities of the Member States as regards the combating of social exclusion, but does not empower the European institutions to take any measures towards this end. In compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, initiatives to combat poverty and social exclusion are primarily the preserve of the Member States' local, regional and national authorities. The European Union can only complete and stimulate the work of the Member States in these fields by promoting the exchange of information, the comparison of experiences, the transfer of know-how and the demonstration of the validity of the projects based on partnerships. Thus, the Union action against social exclusion is mainly centred on vocational training [see section 13.4.2].

    Various initiatives of the Union help combat poverty and social exclusion. Food surpluses from the common agricultural policy are distributed in the framework of winter aid campaigns for the most needy organised by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) [Regulation 807/2010]. The Commission supports the work of the European Anti-Poverty Network and has established a permanent dialogue with this group.

    Building on the momentum created and the results achieved in 2003 by the "European Year of People with Disabilities", the Council adopted resolutions inviting the Member States to promote the employment and social integration of people with disabilities; the accessibility of cultural infrastructure and cultural activities for people with disabilities as well as their integration into society through education and training systems adapted to their needs. The Commission introduced a multiannual action plan aimed at mainstreaming disability issues in the relevant common policies and implementing specific measures in key areas with a view to enhancing the economic and social integration of people with disabilities [COM/2007/738]. Thus, a Regulation establishes rules for the protection of and provision of assistance to disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility travelling by air, both to protect them against discrimination and to ensure that they receive assistance [Regulation 1107/2006].  The EC/EU is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [Decision 2010/48 and Convention].

    In a resolution on an information society for all, the Council affirmed that the information society should not be the source of new exclusions. It called upon the Member States to tap the potential of "e-inclusion" for disadvantaged people (the unemployed and inactive people, and people at risk of exclusion such as older workers and disabled persons), to remove the barriers which exist in the information society, and to encourage partnerships of all stakeholders, with an emphasis on regional and local dimensions.

    In a resolution on transforming undeclared work into regular employment, the Council set out guidelines advocating preventive actions and sanctions aimed at eliminating undeclared work, encompassing simplified administrative procedures, reduced costs and constraints affecting the creation and development of small businesses, removal of disincentives to declare work, and increased surveillance, with the active support of the social partners.

    One of the targets of the ''Europe 2020'' strategy [see section 7.3] is to reduce the number of Europeans living below national poverty lines by 25% by 2020, lifting 20 million people out of poverty. The Flagship Initiative "European Platform against Poverty" of the ''Europe 2020'' strategy aims to ensure social and territorial cohesion such that the benefits of growth and jobs are widely shared and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion are enabled to live in dignity and take an active part in society [COM/2010/2020]. A Commission recommendation on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market advocates an integrated global strategy combining adequate resources, favourable workplace conditions and high-quality services.

    The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, with a budgetary commitment of EUR 3,400 billion for the period 2014 - 2020, contributes to achieving the specific objective of alleviating the worst forms of poverty, by providing non-financial assistance to the most deprived persons by food and/or basic material assistance, and social inclusion activities aiming at the social integration of the most deprived persons [Regulation 223/2014, last amended by Regulation 2015/1386].

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