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"Stop poverty now!"

Today, Slovenia officially joined the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. The consultation, organised by the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs in co-operation with the National Council, and held in the premises of the National Council, was aimed at presenting the goals and objectives of the European Year (2010) and nominating the National Ambassadors of the European Year. This was followed by an expert discussion on the state of poverty in Slovenia.

Speakers at the opening ceremony of the European Year 2010 were Blaž Kavčič, President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia, Ivan Svetlik, Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Boris Šuštaršič, State Adviser and President of the Committee on Social Protection, Labour, Health Care and Persons with Disabilities, and Andrej Beloglavec, Deputy Head of the European Commission Representation in Slovenia.

Minister Svetlik drew attention to the seriousness of the challenge of poverty: "Although statistics rank Slovenia among those EU Member States with a below-average risk of income poverty (12.3% in 2008), this does not imply that we may regard the existing situation as satisfactory. As long as there are individuals, families and groups affected by poverty to such an extent that their life choices and chances are limited, this is in contradiction with the principle of social justice and solidarity, which represents one of the fundamental values of European society". He added that "poverty in particular entails very limited life choices, which may fatally affect individuals' careers."

Mr Svetlik also commented on the strong commitment of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs and the Government in general to solving the issue of poverty and social exclusion, and gave assurances that, beyond the activities associated with the European Year, the Government is drafting a broader and more complex set of legislation and measures aimed at addressing poverty in a comprehensive manner and ensuring a guaranteed minimum income at the level of the calculated minimum cost of living. The prevention of poverty and social exclusion remains one of the key priorities of our social policy in the future, he said. To this end, in the period of the present economic crisis, sufficient funds have been earmarked for ensuring social security and increasing social transfers. In 2009, a lump-sum allowance was paid to the socially most disadvantaged population groups. The funding of various social security programmes and social programmes carried out by non-governmental organisations is also continuing. Among the recently adopted measures for provision of a decent living, the Minimum Wage Act should be particularly singled out, he said. It increases the minimum wage for full-time work to match the calculated value of the minimum cost of living. The drafting of the Exercise of Rights to Public Funds Act, the Financial Social Assistance Act and the Long-term Care and Insurance for Long-term Care Act is also in its final phase, he said. The objective of these acts is a more equitable distribution of these public funds, higher wages for those that depend on them, and the activation and social inclusion of those beneficiaries of cash social assistance that are able to work. "All these objectives have a common goal: fewer poor people", said Minister Svetlik.

In Mr Svetlik's view, "it has become ever clearer that the battle against poverty and social exclusion in society cannot be won unless all social actors i.e. all of us, play our part." He added that "in this context, it seems essential that, to promote further social and economic development, we as a society recognise the importance of developing the logic of mutual responsibility and co-operation as well as a general feeling of shared responsibility across the society we live in."

Through its varied activities, the European Year is aimed at raising people’s awareness of different aspects of poverty and social exclusion and their covert manifestations, to deepen the understanding of poverty-related problems, and to encourage discussion on seeking new approaches to resolving different aspects of poverty and social exclusion, as well as to inform the most vulnerable population groups on the possibilities of overcoming their distress and drawing attention to the importance of developing different forms of solidarity and volunteering.

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