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Scottish Parliament: Research Briefings: SB 03-19 Social Inclusion and the European Union

Author(s): Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

Copyright holder(s): Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body: © Scottish Parliamentary copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Queen's Printer for Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.

Text

SPICe Briefing 03/19
18 March 2003

SOCIAL INCLUSION AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

AILEEN MCLEOD

This briefing provides an overview of EU action in the policy area of social inclusion. It outlines the EU policy context in relation to social inclusion, describes the EU strategy for combating poverty and social exclusion and promoting social inclusion and identifies recent key developments in this area. The briefing also considers the implications of EU action in this area for tackling poverty and social inclusion in Scotland.


CONTENTS

KEY POINTS OF THIS BRIEFING ... 3

BACKGROUND ... 4

THE EU POLICY CONTEXT ... 4
DEFINING SOCIAL EXCLUSION AT THE EUROPEAN LEVEL ... 5
THE EUROPEAN STRATEGY FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION ... 6
COMMUNITY ACTION PROGRAMME ... 11

UK NATIONAL ACTION PLAN ON SOCIAL INCLUSION 2001 ... 11
SCOTTISH CONTRIBUTION TO THE UK NATIONAL ACTION PLAN ... 12

PREPARATIONS FOR THE 2003 NATIONAL ACTION PLANS ... 13

THE IMPACT OF EU ENLARGEMENT ... 15

POSSIBLE ACTION FOR SCOTLAND ... 16

BIBLIOGRAPHY ... 17

ANNEX: PROCEDURES WITHIN THE SOCIAL INCLUSION PROCESS ... 20


KEY POINTS OF THIS BRIEFING
• The EU’s current approach in tackling poverty and social exclusion is based on the Social Policy Chapter of the EC Treaty, as amended by Amsterdam and Nice. The combating of social exclusion is now one of the EU’s fundamental social policy goals.
• The Lisbon European Council in March 2000 set the Member States the strategic goal of eradicating poverty and social exclusion by 2010. This is to be achieved through developing targets.
• A key element of the European social inclusion strategy is the setting of common European objectives on poverty and social exclusion. The social inclusion process at the EU level is implemented through what is known as the ‘open method of co-ordination’ (OMC).
• Central to the OMC are the following elements:
- the preparation of two-year National Action Plans against poverty and social exclusion, which state how Member States propose to implement the common objectives
- the Joint Report on Social Inclusion is the response of the European Commission to the two-year NAPs/inclusion of the Member States
- the development of 18 common European indicators for measuring progress towards the eradication of poverty by 2010 and for comparing best practice across the Member States
• The UK NAP/inclusion 2001 and the contribution from Scotland to the action plan focuses on existing strategies and policies to tackle poverty and social exclusion. These revolve largely around a long-term approach over the next 10-20 years, with a key objective to eradicate child poverty. The Scottish contribution provides an overview of the Executive’s Social Justice initiative.
• A second round of National Action Plans on social inclusion is due to be submitted in July 2003. The Commission is keen for the 2003 NAPs/inclusion to give greater attention to the regional and local dimensions and for there to be broader consultation with a wider range of interested bodies.
• EU enlargement on 1 May 2004 to countries from Eastern, Central and Southern Europe is likely to have an impact on the allocation of European Structural Funds post 2006.


BACKGROUND

Combating social exclusion and poverty is a key challenge facing the European Union (EU) and the Member States over the coming decades. A recent European Commission report (2003) states that 15% of the EU population, or about 56 million people, are at risk of poverty. 9% of the EU population are at a persistent risk of poverty. The risk of poverty affects disproportionately children and young people, the unemployed, and the elderly and lone parent families.

The fight against poverty and social exclusion is essentially the responsibility of Member States and their national, regional and local authorities since it stands central to their employment and social protection policies. As an area of increasing priority for many of the Member States, a wide array of actions exists at the national level to promote social inclusion. However, the extent and nature of the problem of poverty and social exclusion varies across and within the Member States. For example, the level of poverty in Sweden is 9% compared to 21% in Greece and Portugal and 19% in the UK. There has been growing recognition recently of the need to tackle the problem of poverty and social exclusion by co-ordinating nationallevel action at the EU level. The main intention is to share good practice and information to improve policy outcomes. With the Union’s forthcoming enlargement to the countries of Eastern, Central and Southern Europe, co-ordination of Member States’ social inclusion policies is assuming greater importance.

THE EU POLICY CONTEXT

The current approach of the EU to tackling poverty and social exclusion is based on the Social Policy Chapter of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, which amended the EC Treaty.

Article 136 TEC explicitly mentions the combating of social exclusion as one of the EU’s fundamental social policy goals. Although this provides the EU for the first time with a legal basis for action at the European level on poverty and social exclusion, policy-making in this area remains firmly in the hands of the fifteen Member State governments. Article 137 EC reaffirms that the EU’s main role in combating social exclusion is to ‘support and complement the activities of the Member States’. It also enables the Council of the EU to adopt measures that seek to encourage cooperation between Member States through initiatives aimed at improving knowledge, developing exchanges of information and best practices, promoting innovative approaches and evaluating experiences.

The Treaty of Nice, which came into force on 1 February 2003, amends Article 137 to exclude any harmonisation of the laws and regulations of the Member States. It also ensures that measures adopted by the Council will not affect the right of Member States to define the fundamental principles of their social security systems.

At the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 the Member States recognised that the extent of poverty and social exclusion within the EU is still unacceptably high. Building a more socially inclusive Europe is considered an essential element in achieving the Union’s ten-year strategic goal of becoming the “world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy, capable of sustained economic growth, with more and better jobs, and greater social cohesion”.

The Lisbon Summit set a goal for full employment in Europe and committed Member State governments to making a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty and social exclusion by 2010. This is to be achieved at the EU level primarily by developing targets, indicators and monitoring mechanisms capable of measuring progress in this area. It is to be delivered through a ‘partnership’ approach between the EU, Member States, regional and local authorities, the social partners and non governmental organisations (NGOs) based on national action plans and a programme presented by the European Commission. The main means of financing measures to promote social inclusion at the EU level is through the European structural funds and the European Social Fund in particular, as discussed later.

In December 2000 the Nice European Council defined a number of broad objectives making the fight against poverty and social exclusion a central element in the modernisation of the European social model. Member States were invited to develop their priorities for promoting social inclusion in relation to the four objectives
• the promotion of a participative society
• the prevention of the risks of exclusion
• setting out actions for disadvantaged groups
• the mobilisation of all actors concerned

At Nice, Member State governments also approved the EU Social Policy Agenda. This is a five-year work programme (2000-2005), which aims to implement the political commitments agreed at Lisbon by setting down clear priorities for action and proposals from the Commission, as well as a policy framework in which all stakeholders could play a role. Key areas for action include full employment and quality of work, quality of social policy, promoting quality in industrial relations, preparing for enlargement, and promoting international co-operation.

The Commission is required to monitor the development of the social agenda and to prepare an annual scoreboard of progress (1). In May 2003 the Commission will publish its mid-term review of the social policy agenda, which will provide a comprehensive list of actions and measures until the end of 2005 (2).

DEFINING SOCIAL EXCLUSION AT THE EUROPEAN LEVEL

The term ‘social exclusion’ is used by the European Commission to refer to those people who are prevented from participating fully in economic, social and civil life and/or whose access to income and other resources (personal, family, social and cultural) is so inadequate to exclude them from enjoying a standard of living and quality of life that is regarded as acceptable by the society in which they live.

While unemployment is generally viewed as a major factor of social exclusion, the Commission also considers that other types of barriers can prevent people from participating in society, such as poor education and training, housing, health, environment, culture, access to family support and other support services,discrimination, etc (European Commission, 2000a). These reflect the multidimensional nature of the problem of social exclusion.

THE EUROPEAN STRATEGY FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION

At the Lisbon European Council Member States recognised that the transformation to the new knowledge-based society has the potential to reduce social exclusion by creating higher levels of economic growth and employment, and by opening up new ways of participating in society. However, the national governments were also aware that it could widen the gap further between those who have access to the new knowledge and those that are marginalised and excluded. A key challenge for the Member States is to ensure the objective of social inclusion is incorporated into economic and social policies at both the European and national level.

In the Presidency conclusions, Member States agreed that:

“Investing in people and developing an active and dynamic welfare state will be crucial both to Europe’s place in the knowledge economy and for ensuring that the emergence of this new economy does not compound the existing social problems of unemployment, social exclusion and poverty.....the European Social model, with its developed systems of social protection, must underpin the transformation to the knowledge economy” (Council of the European Union, 2000a).

By linking social policy to economic and employment policy, the Lisbon Council recognised that economic growth and social cohesion are “mutually reinforcing”. To tackle unemployment in the EU, Member State governments now co-ordinate their employment policies in line with guidelines set annually by the EU. The extent to which these guidelines have been implemented is outlined in the National Employment Action Plans (NAPs) produced by each of the fifteen Member States. These NAPs are submitted to the Employment Committee (EMCO) of the Council of the EU, where they are subject to an intergovernmental peer review process. The Commission then draws up a draft Joint Employment Report on the basis of the EMCO conclusions, which is agreed jointly by the EMCO and the Commission, and presented to the Council of the EU for final adoption by the Council and the Commission in the form of a Joint Employment Report. This procedure is known as ‘the European Employment Strategy’ and is often referred to as ‘the Luxembourg process’ (3). It also entails Member States agreeing common targets, benchmarking, peer review, comparing best practice, etc. The Employment guidelines play a contributory role in promoting social inclusion by improving employability, reducing skills gaps and creating new job opportunities, thereby re-integrating people into society.

In a similar vein to the employment process, the Lisbon European Council stated that the EU’s social inclusion strategy should consist of
• promoting a better understanding of social exclusion through continued dialogue and exchanges of information and best practice, on the basis of commonly agreed indicators
• mainstreaming the promotion of inclusion in Member States’ employment, education and training, health and housing policies, this being complemented at Community level by action under the Structural Funds within the present budgetary framework
• developing priority actions addressed to specific target groups (for example, minority groups, children, the elderly and the disabled), with Member States choosing amongst those actions according to their particular situations and reporting subsequently on their implementation

Key elements of the European Social Inclusion Strategy

The key elements of the social inclusion process at the European level are

(1) The establishment of common objectives on poverty and social exclusion, which were agreed at the Nice Summit in December 2000. These aim to:
• facilitate participation in employment (better access to stable and quality employment; improving employability) and to facilitate access by all to resources, rights, goods and services (e.g. adequate income, decent and sanitary housing, healthcare, education, justice, culture, sport and leisure)
• prevent the risks of exclusion (lack of access to information and communication technologies, life crises such as indebtedness, exclusion from school, becoming omeless and family crises)
• help the most vulnerable (people with disability or people with particular integration problems, such as drug and alcohol abusers, mentally ill people, exoffenders, prostitutes or children growing up in poverty and unstable environments or people living in areas experiencing multiple disadvantage)
• mobilise all relevant bodies (people experiencing poverty; national, regional and local authorities; social partners, NGOs and social service providers; all citizens; and businesses

(2) The social inclusion process is implemented across the Member States through a new EU level method of governance known as the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC). This new governance process is a flexible form of co-operation among the 15 national governments, and to a large extent relies upon the goodwill of the Member States in taking action and setting and measuring targets in response to the common objectives agreed at the European level (4). The OMC therefore differs from the traditional Community method of adopting European legislation, which is based on the Commission as the initiator and the Council as the main decision-maker, with the European Parliament jointly in an increasing number of policy areas.

The open method is described as a means of spreading best practice and of achieving greater convergence towards the main EU goals through a decentralised and co-ordinated approach. Member States must implement the common European objectives into national and regional policies by setting specific targets and adopting measures. The OMC is designed to respect the diversity of national systems. It encourages Member States progressively to develop their own policies through a cycle of periodic monitoring, evaluation and peer review, establishing indicators and benchmarks.

The role of the EU institutions in the OMC

National governments play the lead role in the implementation of the OMC on social inclusion. The European Council now meets every spring as an Employment, Economic and Social Council. Its core function is to offer strategic direction and effective monitoring of progress by defining the mandates for the National Action Plans and ensuring they are followed up. The Spring Council also reviews the Annual Progress Reports and recommends the employment guidelines.

Within the Council of the EU, a new advisory committee was established to manage the OMC social inclusion process called the Social Protection Committee (SPC). Its key task is to “monitor the development of social protection policies in the Member States and the Community; to promote exchanges of information, experience, and good practice between Member States and with the Commission; to prepare an Annual Report on social protection to be submitted to the Council” (Council of the European Union, 2000b). The SPC is also involved in setting the indicators and in the peer review process.

The membership of SPC largely comprises national experts from the Member States. Each Member State appoints two representatives. These are usually senior officials from their respective ministries of social affairs, who officially represent Ministries and ministerial policy positions. There are also two representatives from the Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs. The SPC meets every month (except August) and reports to the Council of the EU via the Committee of Permanent Representatives to the EU (Coreper).

The Commission plays a co-ordinating role, organising the exchange of best practices, suggesting potential indicators, and supporting the work of the SPC, for example in relation to the conducting of research studies, monitoring and peer review.

At the present stage only the Commission and the Council are centrally involved in the OMC process. There is very limited provision for the involvement of the European Parliament and its Employment and Social Affairs Committee. Although the EP has set up a social inclusion contact group, links between this grouping and the SPC are limited.

Core elements of the OMC

The three core elements of the OMC are as follows:

[a] The preparation of National two-year Action Plans (NAPs/inclusion) against poverty and social exclusion for taking forward the four commonly agreed objectives.

The first NAPs were submitted to the European Commission by the Member States in June 2001. In these plans, each of the Member States describe the main policy measures, which national governments have or intend to implement in promoting social inclusion and combating poverty and social exclusion and set out the priorities of the Member States for the next two years (July 2001 – June 2003). Examples of good practice were also provided. The UK NAP/inclusion for 2001 is discussed later.

[b] The adoption of a joint report by the Commission and the Council based on the Member States’ NAPs/inclusion. The first Joint Report on Social Inclusion was adopted in December 2001 (5). It consolidates and analyses the different approaches that have been adopted by Member States in their NAPs/inclusion in response to the common objectives on poverty and social exclusion endorsed at Nice. It identifies the risk factors that lead to poverty and social exclusion. These include long-term unemployment, low income, low quality employment, homelessness, poor health, immigration, low qualifications and leaving school early, gender inequality, discrimination and racism, disability, old age, family break-ups, drug abuse and alcoholism and living in an area of multiple disadvantage.

While the Joint Report acknowledges that the extent and the nature of social exclusion varies across and within the Member States, it identifies eight core challenges that are being addressed to a greater or lesser extent by most Member States. These are
• developing an inclusive labour market and promoting employment as a right and opportunity for all
• guaranteeing adequate income and resources for a decent standard of living;
• tackling educational disadvantage
• preserving family solidarity and protecting the rights of children
• ensuring reasonable accommodation for all
• guaranteeing equal access to and investing in high-quality public services (health, transport, social care, cultural, recreational and legal)
• improving the delivery of services
• regenerating areas of multiple deprivation

[c] The development of common indicators at the EU level to monitor progress towards the goal set by the Lisbon European Council of making a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010. Social inclusion indicators are not a vehicle for “naming and shaming” Member States but to identify and compare best practice across the Member States (Vanderbroucke, 2001).

The Laeken Summit in December 2001 agreed an initial set of 18 common indicators of social inclusion. This was based on the work undertaken by the Social Protection Committee (SPC), and in particular its sub-group on social indicators.

The ten primary indicators consist of a restricted number of lead indicators which cover the broad fields considered to be the most important elements in leading to ocial exclusion. These are

* low income rate after transfers with low-income threshold set at 60% of medium income
* distribution of income
* persistence of low income
* median low income gap
* regional cohesion
* long term unemployment rate
* people living in jobless households
* early school leavers not in further education or training
* life expectancy at birth
* self perceived health status

Secondary indicators support these lead indicators and describe other dimensions of the problem. These include the following
* dispersion around the 60% median low income threshold
* low income rate anchored at a point in time
* low income rate before transfers
* distribution of income
* persistence of low income (based on 50% of median income)
* long term unemployment share
* very long term unemployment rate
* persons with low educational attainment

In its 2001 report on the indicators, the SPC recognised that European level indicators should not be limited to income and employment. The SPC noted that its sub-group is still trying to develop commonly agreed indicators for other key areas of social inclusion, such as housing, education, health and healthcare and social protection. It is also examining ways in which the gender dimension of poverty and social exclusion can be measured. The SPC also recommended that the National Action Plans should contain quantitative information on decent housing, housing costs and homelessness and other precarious housing conditions (Social Protection Committee, 2001).

The setting of social inclusion indicators at the EU level required a common EU definition of poverty. There has been some criticism of the decision to define the relative EU poverty rate as the proportion of individuals living in households where income is below 60% of the national equivalised median income. For example, Tony Atkinson viewed the relative income policy indicator as insufficient to encompass the accession countries, which tend to have higher poverty rates and median income below the EU median (Atkinson, 2002).

The participation of civil society in the OMC

A central element to the OMC process is supposed to be the participation of national, regional and local authorities, social partners, non governmental organisations, as well as those directly affected by poverty and social exclusion, in the preparation, implementation and monitoring of the social inclusion NAPs. The Commission has made several efforts to involve stakeholders, including the organisation of a series of bilateral seminars on the social inclusion process.

Both the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and the European Trades Union Congress (ETUC) have been actively engaged in the EU’s social inclusion strategy. For example, in November 2001 the EAPN organised a conference that sought to evaluate the NAPs/inclusion for the first time and their implementation. The ETUC adopted a resolution on the European Social inclusion strategy in which it stated the trades union wish to be involved in the monitoring and assessment of the process and in the selection of indicators.

However, the experience of the first round of NAPs/inclusion highlighted the limited involvement of civil society. Little attention was given in many of the NAPs to the regional and local dimension and to the activities of the key stakeholders. This was particularly the case with the 2001 UK NAP. The lack of consultation of external organisations ensures the EU social inclusion process remains little known at the national, regional and local levels. It also limits the availability of comparable and upto- date statistical data about progress on the ground (6).

COMMUNITY ACTION PROGRAMME
In January 2002 the Community Action Programme (2002 - 2006) came into effect. With an overall budget of 75 million euro, the programme aims to encourage co-operation between Member States to combat social exclusion. It seeks to promote a better understanding and analysis of social exclusion and poverty issues by improving the statistical tools for their measurement and developing the exchange of information and best practice. The programme also aims to encourage networking with the stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, local authorities, civil society, etc.) and increase public awareness of the social inclusion process by supporting major events like the Round Table Conference hosted in October 2002 by the Danish Presidency.

The Commission is using the programme to fund a study that is looking at the development of regional-level indicators. It is also funding a joint study on the issue of discrimination and social exclusion.

UK NATIONAL ACTION PLAN ON SOCIAL INCLUSION 2001

The UK National Action Plan on social inclusion 2001-2003 reflects the UK’s existing strategy against poverty and exclusion and covers both reserved and devolved matters. Although employment, social security and welfare benefits are all issues essentially reserved to Westminster, other aspects of social exclusion, such as housing, health, education and training are devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Preparation of the UK NAP was co-ordinated by the Department of Work and Pensions and involved other Government departments, the local authorities and a range of stakeholders. An editorial group was established between the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Whitehall departments to discuss the action plan. Each of the devolved administrations made their own separate contributions to the UK NAP. Areas of particular relevance to Scotland are discussed later.

The UK NAP/inclusion essentially focuses on employment as the route out of poverty, with much made of policy initiatives, such as the New Deals and the various changes to the tax and benefits systems. The Government’s strategy takes a strategic long-term approach over the next 10-20 years with its main objectives to
• eradicate child poverty
• help working age people into work
• provide older people with security in retirement
• narrow the gap between deprived communities and the rest

These are reflected in specific outcome targets, for example, to reduce teenage conceptions, rough sleepers, the number of school children playing truant or excluded from school, and the number of young people not in work, training or education.

The UK approach is based on the principles of
• structuring policy interventions around a life cycle approach, tailored to the needs of different age groups (children and young people, working-age adults and older people)
• tackling failing communities and the needs of other excluded groups of people
• mobilising all relevant actors in joint multi-agency response (Government departments working jointly with local government, NGOs, business sector)
• tackling discrimination in all its forms, wherever it occurs
• ensuring all policy formulation is evidence-based

A range of indicators is used to monitor the impact of the UK Government’s strategy to tackle poverty and social exclusion. Since the devolved administrations are responsible for many of the policies impacting on poverty and social exclusion, such as housing, education and health, separate indicators are included for Scotland, which are set and monitored by the Scottish Executive.

SCOTTISH CONTRIBUTION TO THE UK NATIONAL ACTION PLAN

The annexes of the UK National Action Plan/inclusion outlines the policy frameworks and strategies developed by the devolved administrations, and Scotland in particular, for combating poverty and social exclusion.

Scotland’s contribution to the UK plan essentially consists of an overview of the Scottish Executive’s Social Justice initiative, which was launched in November 1999. This sets down ten long-term targets for 2020 and 29 short-term milestones for delivering the long-term targets for promoting social inclusion in Scotland. By applying a lifecycle theme, the Executive’s strategy focuses on children, young people, families, older people and communities. The main aim is to eradicate child poverty by 2020. Progress towards the Executive’s social justice targets is monitored and reported in the Social Justice Annual Report (7).

Integrated action and local partnerships are also central to the Executive’s strategy with the inclusion of local authorities, the public, private and voluntary sectors on the Scottish Social Inclusion Network (SSIN) (8). The Executive’s strategy also focuses on empowering some of the most deprived communities and excluded groups through the designation of 48 Social Inclusion Partnerships (SIPs). The SIP programme aims to give such communities the ability to influence strategic decisions, and build skills, confidence and capacity to deliver services.

The annex also refers to the extent to which the Executive is collating data on other aspects of poverty and social exclusion. This includes small area data, rural poverty and data on equality issues (9).

PREPARATIONS FOR THE 2003 NATIONAL ACTION PLANS

A second round of National Action Plans on social inclusion is due to be submitted by July 2003, with a second Joint Report from the Commission and the Council scheduled for publication in the spring of 2004. For this purpose, the common objectives agreed at Nice were reviewed under the Danish Presidency (July - December 2002). Minor changes to the objectives were agreed at the Copenhagen European Council in December 2002 based on a report prepared by the Social Protection Committee.

In its report, the SPC concluded that the existing common objectives have proved balanced, robust and viable and that there was no need to make major changes to the objectives. Three minor changes were proposed in order to highlight the importance of the common European objectives
• set specific targets in line with the conclusions of the Barcelona European Council for Member States to reduce significantly the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2010
• emphasise the importance of taking the role of gender fully into account in the development, implementation and monitoring of National Action Plans
• highlight more clearly the high risk of poverty and social exclusion faced by immigrants

The SPC produced a common outline to assist Member States in drawing up their plans for the 2003/2005 NAPs/inclusion. It recommended Member States give greater attention to the following

• linking the NAPs/inclusion process more clearly with existing policy making processes and ensuring that a concern with poverty and social exclusion is mainstreamed into all policy areas, including the use of Structural Funds
• increasing awareness of the social inclusion process both amongst the general public and amongst policy makers and practitioners including national parliaments
• ensuring a better integration of areas such as health and culture with other policy domains
• setting clear objectives and specific targets for the reduction of poverty and social exclusion
• mainstreaming gender at each stage of the plans, in the identification of challenges, the design, implementation and assessment of policies, the selection of indicators and targets and the involvement of stakeholders
• ensuring that there is good co-ordination between the preparation of the NAPs/inclusion and the NAPs/employment so that each reinforces and complements the other

Of particular interest to Scotland is the recognition of the need for the 2003/2005 plans to acknowledge the importance of the regional and local dimensions while respecting the different distribution of competencies in different Member States.

To encourage dialogue and co-operation at all levels of society, the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council approved a Resolution in November 2002 on social inclusion through social dialogue and partnership between the Commission, the Member States, the social partners and other civil society organisations.

UK-level preparations
In contrast to the 2001 UK NAP/inclusion, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has tried to ensure that for the 2003/2005 NAP there is broader consultation with a wider range of interested bodies. For example, the DWP hosted a seminar in February 2003 involving over 100 representatives of key NGOs, such as the UK Coalition Against Poverty (UKCAP), local government, trades unions, the voluntary sector, those people who have direct experience of poverty and the devolved administrations as well as the European Commission. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), and Poverty Alliance also attended the seminar.

To facilitate the DWP’s efforts to increase participation in the EU social inclusion process, the Social Policy Task Force was set up to look at the UK NAP and, in particular how to better involve the voluntary sector, local government, trade unions and the private sector. There is also a working group on participation to discuss ways in which the DWP can involve people with direct experience of poverty in this process (10).

Scottish preparations for the 2003 NAP

The Scottish Executive has been considering ways in which to seek views from some of the key Scottish organisations in its contribution to the 2003 UK NAP. The SCVO, CoSLA and Poverty Alliance have been working closely with the Executive to ensure there is a wider consultation with interested bodies than there was during the preparation of the 2001 NAPs. Part of this work included an awareness-raising seminar held by the Poverty Alliance in December 2002.

There is some concern as to the shape or form of Scotland’s input into the 2003 UK NAP and how more organisations can become involved in the process. At a recent meeting of the Scottish Social Inclusion Network a discussion was held by the various organisations about Scotland’s input into the 2003 NAP, in terms of what type of ‘Scottish’ information should be included and whether there are any examples of good practice. Scottish data has to be ready by the end of March 2003 with the draft of the UK NAP ready in April. It is as yet unclear how civil society can feed its views into the draft, whether the Executive will launch a written consultation or host a ‘Scottish’ awareness-raising seminar. A seminar will be held by the Poverty Alliance in March 2003 looking at transitions to employment. Representatives from the DWP and the Scottish Executive will attend this seminar and the results will be fed into the drafting process.

THE IMPACT OF EU ENLARGEMENT

The enlargement of the EU from its present 15 Member States to 25 will become a reality on 1 May 2004 when the ten countries from Eastern, Central and Southern Europe join the Union (11). On 16 April 2003 the Accession Treaties will be signed formally by the candidate countries.

Integration of these countries into the EU’s social inclusion process is likely to present a serious challenge for the Union’s present 15 Member States. For example, rates of unemployment are generally higher than in the EU and vary between 5.7% (Hungary), 19.4% (Slovakia), and 18.4% (Poland). GDP per capita varies widely across the applicant countries. Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Slovakia all have per capita GDP less than 50% of the EU 15 average and under 60% of the Greek average, which is the poorest Member State (12). Many of the candidate countries have significant ethnic minority groups that are denied access to employment, health and education systems and social protection systems. For example, the Roma minorities of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria have a greater risk of high levels of poverty and social exclusion.

Since social inclusion policies are less developed in the candidate countries than in the EU 15, this is likely to have an impact on the allocation of European structural funds post 2006. The European Social Fund has a considerable role to play in tackling social exclusion in the UK. For example, under current levels of funding for 2000 – 2006, 36.5% of the Objective 3 budget in Scotland is aimed directly at social exclusion. Post enlargement, and in particular post 2006 it is clear that this level of funding is not secure. Structural funds will move to the East to assist the economies of the accession states. In January 2003 the Commission published its second report on the progress of economic and social cohesion. The third report is expected in November 2003. In June 2003 the Commission will publish its position on the midterm revision of the structural funds.

The Laeken European Council in December 2001 called on the Commission gradually to involve the candidate countries in the social inclusion process to prepare them for full participation upon accession to the EU in 2004. Between June and September 2002 the Commission held a series of seminars in the accession countries and involved the NGOs. The Commission has also launched a series of studies on social protection in the candidate countries. The candidate countries also now participate in the Community Action Programme (transnational projects) and are involved with the Social Protection Committee.

Joint Inclusion Memoranda (JIM) are to be drawn up and signed by each of the candidate countries in conjunction with the Commission prior to their accession. These Joint Memoranda are intended to act as a pre-National Action Plan on poverty and social exclusion. JIMs will reflect the common objectives agreed at Nice and will be used as a framework for presenting policy options and approaches. The first draft JIMs are to be agreed by October 2003 and the last by December 2003.

POSSIBLE ACTION FOR SCOTLAND

The Scottish Parliament may wish to consider the extent to which it could play a role in the EU social inclusion process. There are a number of options available to the Parliament in this regard.

(1) The EU’s strategy offers the Scottish Parliament the possibility of identifying and comparing best practice across some of the Member States, in particular those with a similar population size to Scotland, such as Ireland and Denmark and other regions of the EU, such as those of Germany, Spain and Belgium. It may be the case that other EU countries and regions have policies or practices that have been more successful in reducing poverty and social exclusion, and from which Scotland could learn. The process also provides the opportunity to showcase best practice in Scotland.

(2) The Parliament could scrutinise the actions taken by the Scottish Executive to ensure the UK National Action Plan accurately reflects Scotland’s approach to tackle poverty and social exclusion and that the key targets and objectives are being met. This may also help to increase the openness and transparency of the social inclusion process.

(3) The Parliament could also seek to encourage the involvement of the key stakeholders in Scotland in the preparation, implementation and monitoring of the Scottish contribution to ensure there is wide public consultation. This may also help raise public awareness in Scotland of the social inclusion process.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Atkinson, T. (2002) Reassessing the Fundamentals: Social Inclusion and the European Union. Paper presented at the 40th Anniversary Journal of Common Market Studies Conference, European University Institute, Florence, 12 & 13 April 2002.

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ANNEX: PROCEDURES WITHIN THE SOCIAL INCLUSION PROCESS

THE CYCLE OF THE NATIONAL ACTION PLANS ON SOCIAL INCLUSION:

Step 1: European Spring Council issues a mandate (March)
Step 2: NAPs drawn up within the Member States (January – June)
Step 3: NAPs sent to the Social Protection Committee (July)
Step 4: Peer review process within the Social Protection Committee (autumn)
Step 5: Commission draws conclusions of peer review process and drafts a Joint Report (October)
Step 6: Report discussed at the Social Protection Committee and amended as necessary (autumn)
Step 7: Joint Commission/Council report adopted formally at the European Council (December)

SETTING COMMON EUROPEAN INDICATORS
1. Indicators are set up by a sub-committee of the Social Protection Committee
2. They are sent to the Social Protection Committee for further discussion
3. Indicators sent to Coreper and the Council for final adoption


1 The latest scoreboard, published in February 2003, focuses on the main achievements in the implementation of the social policy agenda during 2002.
2 The Commission is hosting a major conference during March 2003 in Brussels on the mid-term review of the social policy agenda. This aims to take stock of recent achievements and will focus on future action and measures.
3 Further background information about the European Employment Strategy is detailed in SPICe Briefing 02/98 European Employment Strategy. The EES also formed part of an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament’s European Committee during 2002/2003.
4 The ‘open method of co-ordination’ is detailed in a report prepared by working group 4a of the Council of the EU, ‘Involving experts in the process of national policy convergence’ June 2001.
5 Commission Communication on the Draft Joint Report on Social Inclusion, COM (2001) 565 final, 10 October 2001. This constituted the basis for the Joint Inclusion Report of the Commission and the Council, submitted to the Laeken European Council in December 2001.
6 Statistical information at the European level is provided by two household surveys co-ordinated by Eurostat: the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the European Community Household Panel (ECHP). The latter will be replaced by EU-SILC (Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) after 2004.
7 SPICe Briefing 03/15 Social Justice Annual Report summarises the development of the social justice strategy and identifies the extent of progress made since 2002.
8 The Scottish Social Inclusion Network comprises Government officials and representatives of the various organisations involved in tackling social exclusion in Scotland.
9 The Indices of Deprivation (IDS) and the Scottish Households Survey provide information on small data areas at ward level. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/social/siod-00.asp
10 The working group on participation comprises representatives from the NGOs and people who have direct experience of poverty, together with representatives from the DWP. Two representatives from Scotland are involved in this group.
11 The ten accession countries joining the EU on 1 May 2004 are Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia. Romania and Bulgaria are set to join the EU in 2007.
12 Figures taken from the final report of the International Conference on the “Modernisation of social rotection systems in candidate countries”, Brussels 5-6 December 2002.

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