April 18. 2024. 1:16

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EU lawmakers call for minimum income schemes set above poverty line

EU lawmakers called on member states on Wednesday (15 March) to ensure that national minimum income schemes are set above poverty thresholds and urged the European Commission to consider a directive in that respect, though several centrist and right-wing deputies did not support the initiative.

The Parliament adopted a resolution during a plenary session calling on national governments to ensure the adequacy of their minimum income schemes and to swiftly implement the recommendation presented by the Commission last September.

The recommendation, adopted by member states in January, calls on EU countries to have adequate minimum income schemes focused on labour market reintegration by 2030, to adjust benefits depending on the economic situation, and to facilitate access for those in need.

According to the Commission, while more than one in five people across the EU are at risk of poverty, only between 30 and 50% of those eligible use minimum income benefits.

The resolution

In line with the recommendation, the Parliament’s resolution called on member states to facilitate eligibility and uptake of benefits. Moreover, it stressed the need to make sure the level of support is above their national poverty line, taking into consideration the cost of living crisis.

Currently, most minimum income schemes across the EU remain below the national poverty thresholds.

“Today, a minimum income doesn’t lift people out of poverty,” rapporteur Sara Matthieu (Greens) said in a statement, adding that it was “crucial that everyone has a minimum income that allows them to live a decent life.”

The resolution also urges the Commission to consider an EU directive on minimum income which, according to EU lawmakers, could contribute to cutting poverty in half in all member states by 2030.

Towards a directive?

The call for a directive on minimum income is supported by civil society organisations but it remains controversial within the European Parliament.

During a plenary debate on Tuesday (14 March), MEPs from the Greens, Left, and S&D groups said a recommendation alone would fall short of the EU’s goal to lift 15 million people out of poverty by 2030, stressing the need for a directive.

However, several centrist and right-wing members of the Parliament opposed the call for a directive, pointing to the need to respect the competences of member states on the matter.

MEP Krzysztof Hetman (EPP) said that he does not support a European directive and that minimum income should be “tailor-made according to national circumstances”.

The Commissioner for jobs and social rights, Nicolas Schmit, told the lawmakers that his first idea “was along theses lines” of having a directive, but added that the EU only has limited competences on social policy of member states, which makes it hard to achieve a European directive.

“This recommendation at least sets up a permanent call and a process which obliges member states to address their responsibility […] to fight effectively and individually against poverty,” Schmit said.