With Children, For Children: Demonstrating Participatory Practices at the EU
On 18 and 19 November Eurochild, together with its members Universal Education Foundation (UEF) and European Child Rights Unit, and Julie Ward MEP welcomed children from across Europe (Italy, Moldova, Kosovo, Bulgaria, France, Lithuania, the UK and Ireland) to Brussels to talk with Members of the European Parliament and European Commission officials about their involvement in decision-making processes.
The children started on Wednesday afternoon with a workshop at the European Parliament, where they shared experiences of their involvement in CATS (Children as Actors for Transforming Society), in research, in Investing in Children schemes in the UK and in a project against violence in Italy. Children and adults exchanged experiences on children’s participation in small groups. They also shared obstacles that prevent the meaningful participation of children and gathered ideas on how decisions made at European level affecting children and young people can be improved.
Children are not perceived as a priority for the European Parliament, since not many MEPs turned up. Children felt that they were talking amongst themselves.
- Children and young people would like to have more of a dialogue with MEPs and adults in general: “we need more interaction of children with adults”. They raised the question how this could be realised.
- More funding and support is needed to enable their participation at European level.
- Several children raised the idea to set up a European children’s council or parliament, where children from national children’s councils and parliaments would be united and consulted on European issues.
On Thursday morning, the children had breakfast with six European Commission officials from DG Justice, DG Education and Culture and DG Employment and Social Affairs. The key outcomes from the workshop at the European Parliament were presented, followed by informal roundtable conversations, where Commission officials talked about their work and how it affects children. The children shared their participatory experiences with the officials. They said that building mutual trust in public service provision such as schools and health care institutes between children and adults needs to be a stepping stone for recognising children as equal rights holders.
Anna-Maria Corazza Bildt MEP and co-chair of the parliamentary intergroup on children’s rights said that the intergroup would place children’s participation on its agenda. She also suggested that children and young people use social media to contact MEPs.
- Martine Reicherts, Director-General of DG Education and Culture, raised the importance of involving children and young people more especially given their interest in politics and decision-making.
Representatives of the Commission from various fields echoed children’s rights to be heard on matters that affect their lives. One of the DG Justice officials commented that the exchange with children made her realise that the European Commission cannot only consult with expert stakeholders before legislation is made and while this is monitored, but should also consult with children when legislation is affecting them. In future she would add children to her list to be consulted.
Throughout the meetings children were interviewed and filmed by the Kids Correspondent Tako Rietveld. A video will be released later today to show the children’s experiences over the two days.