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EP nearing crucial vote on €90bn European Social Fund+

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The approval of the new ESF+, the EU’s main financial instrument to support Member States in the field of jobs, education, skills and social inclusion reaches a crucial juncture next week with a vote during the Plenary Session of the European Parliament.

In the 2021-2027 period, the ESF+ will be allocated a budget of close to €90 billion, with all EU States being required to address youth unemployment in their spending programmes, a problem that has been aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. In countries where the number of young people currently not in employment, education or training (NEET-rate) is above the EU average, 12.5% of the fund will be spent on combating youth unemployment. These can be measures such as vocational education and training, in particular apprenticeships, and school-to-work transition.

While an informal deal has already been reached been reached between the European Parliament and Council, the two institutions still have to formally back the deal.

A spokesperson for Maltese MEP David Casa, Maltese MEP David Casa, who spearheaded inter-institutional negotiations, told CDE News that the MEP will over the next few days be addressing EPP Group Members to explain the achievements of the European Parliament during the trilogue negotiations with the Council over the last weeks. The spokesperson recalled how the new ESF+ will focus on reducing unemployment, increasing the workers’ skills, empowering youth to continue studying and start working, as well as various schemes aimed at enhancing the community aspects in the various localities across Europe.

The new ESF+ is a merger of the existing European Social Fund (ESF), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD) and the Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI).

MEP David Casa had urged both institutions to approve the Fund, saying that it is a positive deal. “The COVID-19 pandemic is leaving severe social and economic consequences in all the EU’s Member States, so this money is urgently needed” he said.

Child poverty in focus

An important aspect of the proposed new fund requires that Member States with a level of child poverty above the EU average will allocate at least 5% of their ESF+ resources to address this issue. All other Member States must allocate an appropriate amount of their ESF+ resources to combat child poverty.

These resources will be fundamental to financially support the European Child Guarantee, which aims to improve the lives of children experiencing poverty and disadvantage, by ensuring they have access to free healthcare, education, early childhood education and care, nutritious meals and decent housing

This decision was welcomed by EuroChild, a network a network of organisations and individuals working with and for children in Europe. In a statement, the organisation said that the EU’s commitment is but a small yet important step. “We must continue working closely with our members to ensure these resources are channelled into initiatives and reforms that can make a lasting contribution to ending child poverty and social exclusion in Europe”, it said.

At 22.5 %, children (aged less than 18 years) in the EU-27 had a higher risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2019 than working-aged adults and older people. The average in Malta, is slightly higher, at 23.6%.

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.