In 2019, 92.4 million people in the European Union were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, around 21.1% of the EU’s entire population. With such a high number of Europeans in poverty, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) remains dedicated to its mission to eradicate poverty and prevent social exclusion.
Origin of the European Anti-Poverty Network
Established in 1990, the European Anti-Poverty Network is the largest European network of national, regional and local organizations aimed at pulverizing poverty in Europe. The EAPN consists of 32 national networks within the 27 EU member states in addition to Serbia, Norway, Iceland, North Macedonia and the United Kingdom.
The EAPN has organized many activities to combat poverty, from education and training to lobbying and research. The membership of the European Anti-Poverty Network seeks to turn the fight against poverty into a priority for the European Union and foster improved coordination in anti-poverty policies between nations.
Poverty in the European Union
From 2012 to 2017, 10 million fewer people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the European Union, but poverty reduction was not shared equally in the EU. The strength of different welfare systems within European countries varies significantly, contributing to sizably different poverty rates on the continent. The average EU nation reduced the risk of poverty by 34%, while the best welfare system reduced poverty by 57% and the worst by only 16%.
Countries with the highest poverty rates in 2019 were Spain (25.3%), Lithuania (26.3%), Italy (27.3%, 2018 data), Latvia (27.3%), Greece (30.0%), Romania (31.2%) and Bulgaria (32.5%). The nations with the lowest poverty rates in Europe were Austria (16.9%), the Netherlands (16.5%), Slovakia (16.4%), Denmark (16.3%), Finland (15.6%), Slovenia (14.4%) and Czechia (12.5%), according to Eurostat.
Poverty disproportionately affects specific demographics in Europe, especially the disabled. In 2017, 30.1% of people with disabilities in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, 9.1% more than those without disabilities, according to the European Commission. As a result of these inequities, the European Anti-Poverty Network publishes specific sections dedicated to reducing poverty for people with disabilities, as well as for elders and women.
The EAPN Takes Action
The European Anti-Poverty Network acts against poverty through designated segments of the organization. The EAPN’s General Assembly advises the political and strategic direction, while its Executive Committee (EXCO) and Bureau focus on enforcing this pathway. The EU Inclusion Strategies Group (EU ISG) carries out policy work to fight against poverty.
Together, the EU ISG and EXCO invite the 32 anti-poverty national network members of the EAPN and representatives from the 13 member European organizations, holding two-day meetings three times a year to advise future direction and strategy in the fight against poverty.
In addition to these conferences on poverty, the EAPN publishes press releases, synthesis reports and policy recommendations to monitor current efforts to eradicate poverty and guide future steps. The EAPN’s most notable publications include the Country Reports, Annual Growth Survey, Country Specific Recommendations and the National Reform Programmes.
EAPN’s Poverty Watch Reports capture the findings on poverty in many European nations, outlining the notable trends affecting poverty, examples of poverty-eradication successes and evidence-based recommendations to alleviate poverty.
In addition to monitoring poverty through publications, the EAPN actively lobbies representatives in Brussels and national governments. This effort allows the European Anti-Poverty Network to spread its knowledge surrounding poverty into effective policies to counteract destitution. By engaging with policymakers through face-to-face discussions and written exchanges, the EAPN actively brings poverty to the forefront of the European Union’s agenda.
As a result of the EAPN’s work to raise awareness of poverty, Europe continues to make strides against poverty. In 2010, the EAPN helped the year become designated as the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. Other successes have been more on the legislative front, with the EAPN contributing to several new articles in EU Treaties. For instance, the Amsterdam Treaty adopted Articles 13, 136 and 137 (all anti-poverty-related legislation) due to, in part, the contribution of the EAPN, according to its website.
As the EAPN refuses to be a bystander in the fight against poverty, millions of Europeans have a faithful ally. The European Anti-Poverty Network recognizes the time to end poverty is now and through its publications and lobbying, the EAPN can help bring this positive future closer.
– Michael Cardamone