The author presents and analyses the international, particularly the Eastern European features of poverty policies, typical social processes on the peripheries and social challenges. In the course of his analysis he proves that poverty has national, regional, ethnical and gender characteristics. Within Hungary there are significant regional differencies in poverty. Since the change of the political regime (1990), during the last one and a half decades, the 'social stratification fan' has opened. One of the study's conclusions is that the main reasons of social exclusion are: poverty, reproductive inequalities, ethnical, sexual, religious discrimination and discrimination according to age, cultural gaps, unemployment, the raising number of unemployed and homeless people, and the disarrangement and cessation of human relations. Processing many results of new empirical research the author proves that there is a significant difference between those Roma and non-Roma people who have similar social background. Nowadays Roma people's social disadvantages and a tendency to preserve these disadvantages are intensifying in Hungary. In the interest of comparativeness and to encourage further thinking the author presents the challenges of the European Union, based on the fight against poverty and social exclusion. These tasks were elaborated in the National Action Plans of the Member States in 2001. The author also summerises the Joint Memorandum about Social Inclusion of Hungary, which was published in the summer of 2003.