April 13. 2024. 5:52

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EU lawmakers to discuss adequacy of minimum income schemes, need for directive

While EU countries agreed on a recommendation on minimum income schemes proposed by the European Commission last September, some EU lawmakers are pushing for binding measures to ensure adequate welfare benefits for those in need.

During next week’s plenary session, the European Parliament is expected to discuss a resolution calling for increased minimum income support and possible binding measures on the matter.

“This resolution is also a reaction to the proposal of the European Commission, where they acknowledge that minimum income should be set minimally at the national poverty line,” Green MEP Sara Matthieu, co-rapporteur on minimum income, told a press briefing on Wednesday (8 February), adding however that “unfortunately that’s only a recommendation, it’s not binding.”

The Commission presented the recommendation last September, calling on member states to ensure adequate and more flexible benefits for those in need by 2030 while also promoting reintegration in the labour market. The EU Council then adopted the recommendation in January.

Increase accessibility and uptake

In line with the Commission’s proposal, the MEPs’ resolution, adopted by the Parliament’s employment committee in January, is calling for more accessible income schemes, particularly for Roma, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and simplified application procedures to promote the uptake of benefits for those eligible.

“We need to simplify the application procedures, make it more comprehensible, remove all the unnecessary administrative barriers, provide online and offline support tools and have personal case handlers that help people apply for minimum income,” Matthieu said, noting that around 30-50% of those who are eligible do not benefit from income support.

Binding measures?

At the same time, some MEPs and NGOs are raising concerns about the adequacy of non-binding measures on minimum income schemes in light of the current cost of living crisis and the widespread risk of poverty and social exclusion weighing on European citizens.

A recent Eurobarometer survey found that the cost of living crisis is the main preoccupation for 93% of EU citizens, followed by the threat of poverty and social exclusion (82%), while 39% reported having difficulties in paying the bills.

According to Matthieu, “it is necessary to have a binding law so that member states actually have to comply with providing a decent income for everyone”.

In her view, a directive would also help to make sure that minimum income schemes are set at the national poverty line, noting that this is not yet the case across the EU.

At the same time, she acknowledged the lack of consensus on such binding measures among MEPs, adding that it will be challenging to convince lawmakers from other political groups to support the call for a directive.