The EU Fight Against Poverty and Social Exclusion. Activation,Targeting and the Sustainability of the Welfare State
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At the Lisbon Council of March 2000, the EU member states agreed that they should coordinate their policies for combating poverty and social exclusion on the basis of an open method of coordination (OMC). This paper focuses on the main discourses which are expressed through the OMC in the field of social inclusion. Empirically it is concentrating on the joint reports by the European Council and the Commission and on National Action Plans from some member states (Germany, UK and Denmark). The paper states that 1) the definition of problems is closely related to a more general discourse on the sustainability of the welfare state; 2) the main solutions are founded in discourses concerning «activation» and «targeting social benefits». Social policy has to a large extent become labour market policy. Despite some differences between the selected countries, this seems to be the general trends in European social policy; 3) these trends are not created by the OMC process, but it is fair to say that they are strengthened by it, and 4) the general discourses are not presented in a normative/moral language, but expressed in a purely instrumental fashion. The Social Inclusion Strategy (SIS) in the EU is subjected to economical rather than moral or ethical considerations. Nevertheless, it also affects some important questions of justice primarily related to the balance between rights and duties.