FEANTSA STATEMENT ON THE OUTCOME OF THE BARCELONA SUMMIT
What about poverty?
In March 2000, the EU set itself the ambitious goal to become the most competitive and
dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with
more and better jobs and greater social cohesion by 2010. In order to reach this goal, the EU
agreed on a strategy, commonly called the ‘Lisbon strategy’, which links social, economic and
environmental policies. The annual Spring Summit, which brings together the heads of state and
government of all EU Member States, is charged with reviewing the progress made with the
implementation of the ‘Lisbon strategy’. The EU strategy to fight poverty and social exclusion,
which has been developed and elaborated during the last four EU Presidencies, is an important
part of the ‘Lisbon strategy’.
Earlier this year, FEANTSA expressed strong concern about the lack of attention to poverty in
the Spanish Presidency's programme. We are very disappointed that the Spring Summit in
Barcelona (March 15-16, 2002), established to treat social, environmental and economic issues in
a balanced way, failed to properly address poverty. The Spring Summit should identify the
weaknesses of the ‘Lisbon strategy’ and give an impetus to those policies that have so far
remained underdeveloped. The Council had the opportunity to revitalise the EU strategy against
poverty and social exclusion, which has lost considerable weight and substance at both EU and
national levels since it was launched two years ago.
In several EU Member States the number of homeless people is still rising. It is clear that
homelessness should be addressed as a priority issue by a society that aims at economic
prosperity and greater social cohesion. We believe that Spring Summit failed to take account of
the needs and concerns of the homeless. The outcome of the Barcelona Summit will not help to
improve the precarious situation of the homeless. This is all the more unfortunate, because the
Council was in a position to take decisions that would have contributed to the fight against
We would like to make a few specific comments on some of the decisions made in Barcelona:
The Barcelona European Council focused on the functioning of the internal market and made
some important progress. A recurrent theme at the level of the EU is the problem of State aid.
The Council called upon the Member States to further reduce the level of State aid and to target
it to identified market failures. (Art.18§1) FEANTSA believes the latter recommendation to be
We would like to draw attention to the functioning of the housing market as such a failure. The
housing market is not able in any of the EU Member States to provide adequate and affordable
housing to all. We believe that it is the responsibility of public authorities to guarantee access to
housing. State intervention in the housing market is necessary and should be promoted to
prevent people from becoming homeless or living in degrading conditions.
The Barcelona Summit dealt with the issue of sustainable development in a very partial way. An
effective strategy for sustainable development is about more than environmental issues. Poverty
eradication should be an essential part of every serious strategy for sustainable development,
especially in urban areas. We believe the EU should follow and strengthen the approach which
was presented by the Commission in a communication of April 2001, endorsed by the
Gothenburg Council, and which focuses on six priority areas including poverty and health.
Social cohesion, one of the important aspects of the ‘Lisbon strategy’, certainly did not receive
the necessary attention. The conclusions of the Barcelona Summit touch upon important
themes, such as employment, poverty and pensions, in a very superficial way. The Council failed
to address the issues at stake to ensure progress towards more social cohesion.
The Barcelona Council fails to mention poverty in its priority actions for the future; this is
unacceptable and endangers the progress that was made during the previous EU Presidencies.
There are some suggestions for future action in the fields of employment and education. It is
clear however that separate employment and education measures will not eliminate nor prevent
poverty, certainly not for those living in extreme poverty.
We urge the EU to pay due attention to the eradication of poverty as an objective of the ‘Lisbon
strategy’ and to further intensify the strategy against poverty and social exclusion. A
comprehensive approach is necessary, one which combines policy measures in the field of
housing, health, social welfare, employment, education etc.
The EU strategy needs to be strengthened especially as regards housing and homelessness both
on European and national levels. The National Action Plans do not adequately address the
problem of homelessness and at the level of the EU there are no indicators to monitor progress
in this fields. We urge the EU to take the problem of homelessness more seriously and to ensure
it receives the necessary attention in the next round of National Action Plans.