On 12 December, the European Commission designated 2010 the Year of Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. The initiative, budgeted with 17 million, will "reaffirm the EU's commitment to making a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty by 2010," explained the EU executive. The aim of the European Year will be to reach EU citizens and all public, social and economic stakeholders. Four specific objectives have been set:

-recognising the right of people in poverty and social exclusion to live in dignity and to play a full part in society

-increasing the public take-up of social inclusion policies, emphasising everyone's responsibility in tackling poverty and marginalisation

-creating a more cohesive society, where no one doubts that society as a whole benefits from the eradication of poverty

-gaining commitment from all actors, because real progress requires a long-term effort that involves all levels of governance.

There are 78 million people in the European Union - 16% of its population - at risk of poverty today. The problem has grown in scope, according to recent Eurobarometer polls. European citizens estimate that around one in three people (29%) live in poverty in their region and one in ten in extreme poverty.

"The fight against poverty and social exclusion is one of the EU's central objectives and our shared approach has been an important tool to guide and...

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