Every fourth citizen of the European Union is now poverty-stricken or socially excluded, while a tenth of all inhabitants are caught in “total poverty”, according to the Catholic Church's Caritas-Europa organisation.
“Six years after it began in 2008, the economic crisis is still leaving its mark on residents and EU economies - in addition to enormous debt levels with very little economic growth. There are huge numbers of unemployed people and millions living in poverty or at risk of poverty,” the network's 2015 Crisis Monitoring Report said. “The EU and its member states continue to address the ongoing crisis by focusing mainly on economic policies at the expense of social policies. As a result, the policies put in place are having a devastating impact on the people of Europe.”
The report said 123 million EU citizens were currently living in poverty, as inequalities increased and the poor still paid “for a crisis they did not cause”. It added that poverty and exclusion affected as much as a third of the population in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia and Romania, but also 16.1 per cent of Germans and 14.4 per cent of Austrians, while half the EU’s 28 member countries had a third of children living in poverty and “serious gaps” in their social welfare systems.
Caritas Europa is one of the seven regions of the Vatican-based Caritas Internationalis, and has member-charities in 46 European countries.
The Crisis Monitoring Report said the Pope had called in his November address to the European Parliament for a Europe “which revolves not around the economy, but around the sacredness of the human person”.
The secretary-general of Caritas-Europa, Jorge Nuno Mayer, said in a press release he believed the “prioritisation of austerity measures”, far from solving the economic crisis, had instead caused social problems and unrest.