Social exclusion, a growing and serious danger for Europe’s
democracies, is the exclusion of certain people from participating
fully in democratic and civil life, due to poverty, lack of basic
competencies and learning opportunities, or as a result of discrimination.
Social exclusion has been exacerbated by the impact of the financial
crisis and austerity measures, leading to rising unemployment, decreasing
social benefits and difficulties in accessing housing, education
and health services.
The strong correlation between social exclusion and low levels
of democratic participation may call into question the legitimacy
of democratic institutions, for example through low electoral turn-out
or the rise of extremist parties. Self-determined political participation
is already decreasing among young people, women and minorities,
and the gap between the poor and the rich is widening.
The State should contribute to breaking “cycles of disadvantage”
by helping the very poorest, improving access to education and training,
and guaranteeing a minimum family income. There should be targeted
measures for groups in need of special protection – such as migrants,
ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. Finally, there should
be determined efforts to bring marginalised people into the democratic
mainstream by setting up participatory mechanisms and bodies at
local level, promoting “easy to understand” communication and ensuring
basic social and political rights.