Missed opportunity to tackle increasing child poverty
The 2016 European Commission proposals for Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) published on 18 May indicate a lack of progress since the 2015 CSRs in specifically addressing the needs of children in the EU. Whilst Eurochild welcomes an increased number of CSRs with a focus on poverty reduction and social inclusion, the Commission has again missed the opportunity to guide Member States to prioritise implementation of the Recommendation on Investing in Children and tackle the rising tide of child poverty, currently estimated to affect 27 million children in the EU.
Despite notable consideration given to child poverty and child well-being in the Country Reports which were released by the Commission earlier this year, Eurochild is disappointed to see that, as in 2015, only one CSR specifically addresses child poverty (Ireland). The statement in Portugal’s country overview is the only CSR document to refer explicitly to measures being taken to address rising levels of child poverty. The 2016 CSRs continue to be primarily directed towards fiscal adjustments, budgetary objectives and correcting deficits, alongside reducing unemployment and increasing participation in the labour market for economic gain.
Reviewing the 89 CSRs proposed for 27 Member States and for the euro area this year (13 less than in 2015 and now including Cyprus) which await formal European Council approval, Eurochild welcomes the CSRs on inclusive and quality education specifically for Roma children to Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. Reviewing the 28 reports, there are 7 CSRs on female labour market participation and the provision of quality childcare (one more than in 2015). 5 reports refer to this topic within the country assessment but do not conclude with a specific CSR.
Focusing on the social dimension of the EU’s economic governance framework, it is encouraging to see a CSR for the euro area to prioritise strong social protection systems to support those in need. In addition, there are proposed CSRs for Romania, Spain and Bulgaria to strengthen the provision of social services and Eurochild warmly welcomes the CSR for Italy to adopt and implement a national anti-poverty strategy.
ENDING INSTITUTIONAL CARE
Eurochild remains deeply concerned that there are no CSRs in 2016 on the situation of children in institutional care. The opportunity has been missed by the European Commission to prioritise children’s deinstitutionalisation and their right to live in community and family-based care settings.
Eurochild also notes that there is no mention on supporting the rights of the rising number of often unaccompanied refugee and asylum seeking children across the EU, which requires urgent attention.
One of the three key pillars of the European Commission Recommendation Investing in Children: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage is supporting children’s right to participate. Yet there is no mention of listening to children and involving them in decisions affecting them. CSRs from the Commission to Member States on the provision of adequate services and resources should be delivered alongside requirements for the meaningful and ongoing involvement of children, so that policies lead to practice which directly responds to the needs of children themselves.
The European Commission proposal for a European Pillar of Social Rights published earlier this year offers the chance to make children visible at EU-level so that policy-making and practice at the national and local level prioritise children. It remains to be seen how a Social Pillar would be monitored; how it would interact with the European Semester process and ultimately how it can direct investment towards children, families and communities.
The annual CSRs articulate the European Commission’s position with regards to each Member State’s efforts to implement Europe 2020. Member States are expected to integrate these recommendations into national policies and budgets for the following year, and are therefore a key instrument for influencing delivery on the Europe 2020 target to reduce poverty and social exclusion. The CSRs are an important tool to help advocate for children to be at the heart of decision-making.
Every year, Eurochild members assess national developments based on Country Specific Recommendations and National Reform Programmes of EU Member States.
Eurochild will launch its report on the 2016 European Semester in November 2016.
European Commission adopted the Recommendation on Investing in Children: Breaking the cycle of disadvantage in 2013.
- Read our report on European Semester 2015 here