Poverty is on the rise in Europe and EU driven austerity measures risk to kill the sick patient. Is the EU social policy tool-kit effective in combating poverty thus counterbalancing the consequences of unfavourable economic developments and fiscal consolidation interventions?
The fight against poverty and social exclusion has long been a fundamental brick of the European social dimension though resting on “soft” processes of policy coordination. The launch of EU2020 strategy in 2010, including quantitative poverty targets and the European Platform Against Poverty and Social Exclusion (EPAP), was welcomed by the literature as a relevant step forward. By contrast, more recent contributions have cast doubts on the effectiveness of both the new strategy and more generally the EU in combating poverty. The paper addresses this puzzle by first sketching the traditional EU tool-kit against poverty and social exclusion—the Social OMC—and especially, the peer review meetings which
represent a relative unexplored component of the latter. Then the focus is posed on the novel multilevel arena represented by the Europe 2020 Anti-poverty &
social exclusion strategy and the EPAP within the new EU framework for policy coordination and the European Semester.
Relying on preliminary empirical evidences for the period 2008-2013 we suggest a nuanced view on the effectiveness of novel European anti-poverty tools which show both weaknesses and strengths. We argue, on the one hand, that the Europe 2020 social dimension suffers from ineffective design especially with respect to its integration with the Social OMC. On the other hand, within a still unfinished social governance architecture, a multilevel and highly visible anti-poverty arena is gradually emerging characterised by open stakeholder mobilisation and political pressure as well as innovative policy proposal on the side of EU bodies in order to achieve EU2020 poverty and social exclusion targets.