The fight against poverty
The fight for the eradication of poverty has been chased for centuries to the point that it has almost became a myth. With the passing of time the perception of what is poverty has also changed.
What many today perceive as basic needs were seen as luxuries only a few years ago, so the poverty line shifts with improving lifestyles and standards of living.
Social exclusion and poverty are not phenomena found solely in poor countries. These are realities in all developed countries as well. Seventy-three per cent of Europeans feel that poverty in their country is widespread.
And that's because it is. Seventeen per cent of the European population live below the poverty line.
Only 10 years ago, the EU pledged to "make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty" by 2010.
Today, however, we know that this has not occurred and a significant number of Europeans still live in poverty and have limited access to some basic services.
Poverty and exclusion do not only affect the well-being of individuals and their ability to form an integral part of our society but also have the indirect consequence of undermining economic development.
Exposure to poverty and social exclusion tend to lower a person's self-esteem, weakening his abilities to attain the quality of life and job prospects that he aspires to for his well-being, which automatically affects those living around him in a negative way.
One main route out of poverty is education.
Having in place a sound educational system not only ensures a reduction in the number of early school leavers and a lower number of illiterates but also tertiary education for everyone and an ongoing learning process that enables anyone to enrich one's knowledge even during one's adult life.
For this reason the EU has introduced the Life Learning Programme. This enables individuals at all stages of their lives to pursue stimulating learning opportunities across Europe.
It is an umbrella programme integrating various educational and training initiatives.
Another route to the eradication of poverty is job creation. Employment and job satisfaction are paramount for improvement in one's lifestyle.
Of importance is the increase in the overall employment rate, particularly by retaining in employment workers destined for retirement on reaching pensionable age, women and vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities.
Those most at risk of poverty include older people, large and single-parent families, children and young people, people with disabilities, immigrants and those from ethnic minorities.
The EU also has a social fund available to alleviate such situations. On June 24 it adopted new measures aimed at simplifying management rules for the funds.
These changes should help member states to tap these funds more easily and accelerate flows of investment at a time when public budgets are under pressure.
Additional advance payments totalling €775 million will be paid out to some member countries to tackle immediate cash flow problems.
One major problem caused by the financial and economic crisis is that member states and regions are finding it difficult to provide the additional funding required "to match" European investments.
In response, the changes announced are intended to overcome this challenge to accelerate implementation of the programmes and simplify day-to-day management.
Maximising the use of these programmes and funds should enable us to be more successful in eradicating poverty throughout the EU.
Mr Casa is a Nationalist member of the European Parliament.