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Minister Marjeta Cotman: "A social Europe should not allow social exclusion"

Let us work towards a social Europe which does not allow social exclusion! This was the call issued by the President of the EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, Mrs Marjeta Cotman, at the 7th European Meeting of People Experiencing Poverty. The Slovenian Presidency together with the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) has, with the support of the European Commission and the Belgian Ministry of Pensions and Social Integration, organised this annual meeting that gives people with experience of poverty an opportunity to present their views and establish a dialogue with European and national policy- and decision-makers.

"It is not politicians and academics that are the centre of interest but the people who are most familiar with their own problems. Each word and each opinion is important on the road to ensuring the maximum possible social inclusion," said Council President Marjeta Cotman.

The meeting aims to include marginal groups in the process of seeking solutions and shaping strategies and policies to improve their lives.

"A social Europe should not allow social exclusion," underlined Mrs Cotman.

This year's meeting, entitled 'Four Pillars in the Fight against Poverty', focused on four topics: social services, services of general interest, housing and minimum income, which constitute four important fields in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

Salome Mbugua, who last year represented the experience of immigrants in Ireland, this year gave her views on the previous year's meeting. Setting out for Brussels last year, she did not know what to expect from the event, but when she and three other representatives of ethnic minorities were discussing the problems she faces, she realised that their presence at this meeting represented, for the majority of participants, a real challenge.

"The Irish delegation chose representatives who had personally experienced everything they were talking about," said Ms Mbugua. "This was powerful and empowering at the same time. We feel that our presentation struck a cord with people present and we hope that the learning from the meeting included the importance of hearing first hand from the diversity of peoples living in Europe their experiences of poverty, exclusion and discrimination." According to her, this kind of meetings are useful and a positive experience for all concerned.

This year's two-day meeting was attended by over 100 delegates with experience of poverty from the EU Member States and approximately the same number of representatives of national governments, the European Commission, European non-governmental organisations and social partners.


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Date: 16.05.2008