Focus on children to improve the State of the European Union
The annual State of the European Union address by President Juncker of the European Commission is an opportune moment to reflect and consider what the EU has done for children.
Earlier this year, as European leaders descended in Rome to celebrate 60 years of community and shared values, we reminded them about their impact in progressing children's rights. From putting children's rights in the Lisbon treaty to having a children's rights coordinator sitting in the European Commission; from offering funds to ensure children are placed in community based care rather than institutions to putting child poverty to providing concrete regulations to protect children from harmful toys to online environment, there is much to celebrate.
Discover the 10 reasons why the EU has been good for children - Read the opinion piece published in Euractiv
And yet, there is much more that ought to be done. 1 in 4 children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU; disproportionately higher risk than the risk faced by adults. Hundreds of thousands of children are stuck in institutional care, far from personal attention or care; some in prison-like conditions. Children in migrant and refugee situations are at risk of being abused or put in detention.
So, what can President Juncker offer as a vision for children in Europe?
A European Pillar of Social Rights - will it be fit for children?
Now, with a proposal to prioritise a set of social rights, the EU Commission has attemped to put 'social' back on the agenda. Eurochild is pleased to see that protection from child poverty has been given special prominence. Additionally, the proposal recommends governments to develop national child participation strategies. But what will make this European Pillar of Social Rights real? We support the adoption of a joint proclamation by the European Parliament and the Council; but what happens after the political endorsement? Without an implementation plan and funds to support it, we remain skeptical of its impact. Will President Juncker's State of the European Union address this gap and promise real action?
Future of EU finances - will it lead to investment in children?
“Deinstitutionalisation – or reform of the child protection system in a holistic way – is probably the best example where the EU has and can have an enormous positive impact on strengthening national reforms and catalysing change in a way that supports the best interests of the child.” - Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, Eurochild
In the current Multi-annual Financial Framework, the EU prioritised deinstitutionalisation through a Cohesion Policy which aims, among other things, to lift people out of poverty and social exclusion, and through the introduction of the ex-ante conditionalities, which help ensuring that EU funds support the transition from institutional to community-based services.
For example, in some Member States, children and adults with disabilities were helped to leave institutions through the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds, which financed the development of community-based alternatives. Thanks to these funds, some of the children who were previously housed in institutions and orphanages, were supported to return to their families or placed in family-based care; or were supported to access education, all of which allowed them to develop to their full potential.
As Europe prepares for a new Multiannual financial framework beyond 2020, we remind our leaders of the impact of EU funds and policies on improving child protection systems.
President Juncker, we hope you are listening.
Share your comments and thoughts with us. We will be active on Twitter #SOTEU #InvestinginChildren