European Social Fund PlusIn June 2021, the European Parliament authorized the new Social Fund Plus program, which will aid youth and those at high risk of living in poverty. The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) combines the former European Social Fund, the Youth Employment Initiative, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived and the E.U. Program for Employment and Social Innovation.

The ESF+ will be the primary tool to improve the future of Europe. This means addressing all consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, improving employee incomes, strengthening social welfare programs and creating a qualified and adaptable workforce.

Funds and Support

The European Social Fund Plus has a budget of approximately €88 billion to spend between 2021 and 2027. The finances will go to areas of key priority, including:

  • Employment opportunities for youth.
  • Affordable education, healthcare and housing for children.
  • Recovery of socioeconomic consequences caused by COVID-19.
  • Promote social inclusion to marginalized groups.
  • A guarantee that E.U.-funded initiatives will take place.

Empowering Youth and the Most Deprived

The European Parliament increased funds to ensure workforce participation for young people and to provide alleviation of child poverty, targeting two categories of citizens who the COVID-19 pandemic extremely affected. Member states will commit around 12.5% of their ESF+ budgets to assist youth by developing their skills and finding proper employment. Member states will also allocate funds to support children in jeopardy of poverty and social exclusion by ensuring fair access to daycare, schooling, health services and safe housing for all children. Every member state must contribute to the fight against child poverty.

Along with supporting disadvantaged youth, member states will invest a minimum of 25% of their resources to initiatives promoting equal rights for marginalized groups. This will aid in lowering workforce obstacles, combating social injustices and addressing health disparities.

In addition to the quarter of resources spent on fighting discrimination, member states will contribute at least 3% of the finances to necessities including water, food, clothing and shelter. This will counter global poverty that inherently leads to social isolation.

Main Goals of the ESF+

Overall, the European Parliament has created a budget to help the world’s poor, which gives the population a fighting chance to secure proper employment, adequate education and housing and social equality. Outlined are the main goals of the European Social Fund Plus:

  • Safeguard those who are most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
  • Tackle poverty and inequality through youth empowerment.
  • Create policies that invest in individuals and communities through social values.
  • Illustrate to the world how nations can positively impact the lives of their citizens.

The budget that the European Parliament has created will be appropriate for present circumstances and future uncertainties. Through the European Social Fund Plus, citizens will be able to reshape a more diverse, inclusive and resilient European Union.

– Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash 

NextGenerationEU programThe COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light how nations must be prepared for the most unexpected crises. Countries all over the world have conjured up ideas of recovery plans to help restore and improve the world. One country to look at as a model for the rest of the world is Italy. Specifically, the Italian government has formed ENEA Tech as a Foundation that will invest in new technology and generate jobs in order to jumpstart the economy. Through this Foundation, the NextGenerationEU program formed. The NextGenerationEU program has an approximate budget of €800 billion and will be a temporary tool to aid the recovery of economic and social consequences that COVID-19 caused. This will help Italy heal from the pandemic while changing the lives of Italian citizens and providing them with new opportunities.

The Main Elements

The extraordinary effort will contribute to the recovery of socioeconomic losses that the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted. It will also allow for the transition to a more efficient and sustainable Italy. More than 50% of the funding will go toward research and technology innovations, sustainable environmental and cultural reforms while providing planning and protection within the European Union. Additionally, 30% of the budget will address other issues including climate change, environmental conservation and gender equality. Meanwhile, 20% of the financial resources will support the digitalization of the economy and other technological innovations. Finally, between the years 2026 and 2027, 10% of the yearly investment will go toward preventing and repairing biodiversity degradation. The funding will undergo investment and dispersal to Italy and other European Union countries. Recipients will obtain resources in the form of grants and loans.

The Benefits

Through the NextGenerationEU program, Italy and other European countries will become more sustainable, digitized, healthy and diverse. In addition to the previous investments, the many benefits of the program’s efforts include:

  • Investing in “green” technology, which will introduce more environmentally friendly means of transportation and make infrastructures and public areas more energy efficient.
  • Protecting the environment through conserving water, minimizing pollution, using more sources of renewable energy and improving agricultural practices.
  • Making the internet more accessible and affordable, meaning user data and electronic commerce will have more secure protection. The E.U. will also finance online education training to help people improve their digital abilities.
  • Combatting health concerns by creating new vaccines and treatments, increasing access to medical supplies and investing in professional healthcare training.
  • Creating more opportunities for internships and higher education while allocating more funds to loans and scholarships.
  • Increasing job opportunities for people with disabilities and people living in impoverished communities.
  • Fighting racism and xenophobia and supporting gender equality to honor diversity in all of its expressions.

The Next Steps

The European Commission and the European Parliament have made significant measures to ensure that authority leaders prioritize financial support and seek assistance through various NextGenerationEU mechanisms. Although the NextGenerationEU program is coming to fruition, individuals must continue to urge their respective national government leaders to help in developing and enacting recovery programs.

– Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash

“If we don’t have the money, people die. Member states must realize that sound financing is not only morally proper but that it is in their own interest to bring down the flames,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the humanitarian aid chief of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, in a powerful statement against slashing the bloc’s humanitarian aid budget.

The European Parliament is strongly opposing proposed cuts to the European Union’s humanitarian aid budget in a time where many member states are struggling to finance their own domestic crises. The Parliament will negotiate the 2014 and 2015 budgets in October and November with the European Council. Last week, the Committee on Development held several meetings to discuss the crises in Gaza, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

The chairwoman of the Committee on Development, British MEP Linda McAvan, encouraged member states to muster up the 250 million euros necessary to finance humanitarian aid this year, calling on the European Council to demonstrate a true commitment to aid when planning the budget.

“We are in a critical situation. There is a growing backlog on outstanding payments,” said Austrian member of the European Parliament, Paul Rübig, after hearing proposals by member states to slash the aid budget in a committee meeting. “It is unacceptable if the EU cannot pay its bills on time, it would diminish Europe’s stature in the world.”

The Parliament has lamented the red tape stretched out by the E.U. that stops humanitarian aid from reaching its destination in a timely manner, effectively diminishing the impact of the money.

“We need to make our budgetary procedure simpler and faster,” said Elmar Brok, the chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, during a debate on the E.U.’s handling of international crises. Brok has spoken out on the imperative nature of a strong E.U. foreign policy to bring stability and mitigate crises on the continent. “Currently, there is too much bureaucracy, and money given too late for humanitarian actions is wasted money.”

There are many political consequences if the proposed budget cuts are approved. Many struggling countries could potentially fail to reach targets set by the International Monetary Fund without the budget support they receive from the European Union. Georgieva has remarked on the “belt of instability” that surrounds Europe, including Ukraine, Gaza and Ebola-ridden West Africa, stating that juggling such complex crises has been a daunting task for the continent.

“Our member states are at their best when there is a clear purpose, then they mobilize well. But the E.U. is not good at dealing with multiple crises or with forgotten crises that have fallen off the media spotlight. Unfortunately, needs are going up in a world of finite resources,” said Georgieva.

The Committee on Development has also had discussions regarding the development agenda for the near future. MEPs from several nations emphasized that the agenda would need to include or strengthen issues like environmental sustainability, gender equality, rule of law and agriculture.

– Annie Jung

Sources: Public Finance International, Devex, European Parliament
Photo: Flickr