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Progressive leaders, academics and activists call for a European Child Union

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Even before the pandemic, 23 million children in the EU were at risk of poverty and social exclusion. The pandemic has further exacerbated children inequality and it is now time for the European Union to act. On the occasion of the World Children’s Day today (20 November) more than 300 prominent figures from the world of politics, academia and civil society have already joined a call to demand a rapid entry into force of the European Child Guarantee and a Next Generation EU funding that truly works for Europe’s next generations.

What?: The EU can and must do better. The joint call for a Child Union is grounded on three objectives:

  1. A rapid entry into force of the European Child Guarantee and expand its political and fiscal space. Negotiations are ongoing and all efforts must be made to ensure that it becomes an integral part of EU policy. This includes a dedicated budget of 20 billion Euros and binding financing commitments for the Member States in their ESF+ national programmes.

  2. The development of an investments ecosystem for European children starting with a correct planning of the Next Generation EU funding. The Child Union should become a fundamental pillar in Europe’s recovery strategy. This requires re-calibrating National Recovery Plans towards the care services of Europe’s future generations.

  3. Guaranteed equal access to quality and inclusive early childhood education and care for all. European law should ensure child rights and legal entitlements with universal and affordable public provisions for all and dedicated resources for disadvantaged and at-risk children

Europe’s greatest fragility is the undermining of welfare which is leading to increasing inequalities and have made our society more vulnerable to economic, environmental, and health crises. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed new and dramatic challenges to vulnerable households. As experts, activists and policymakers we think that it is time to raise Europe’s ambitions and put forward this strong call for a Child Union. This expresses the demand to the EU to raise to the expectations of its citizens and ensure wellbeing not only through Banking Union, Capital Markets Union, Energy Union and other economic cooperation, but through a Social Union that has a strong mandate on the wellbeing of every child.”

Why?: Already before the pandemic, 23 million children in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The financial difficulties endured by European families in this period as well as the disruption in educational and care services have added additional strain to an already worrisome situation. The impact of the pandemic on children’s inequalities alarming.

Our children are the key to building more just and sustainable societies. Overwhelming evidence shows that inequalities in life chances are already formed in the early years of life and are largely passed on through generations. At present, only half of EU member states have reached the EU objective of a 33% coverage for early childhood education and care (ECEC) below the age of 3. In 9 countries, less than 1 out of 5 children benefits from childcare, and that is usually the one from a better off household (EUROSTAT).

A study led by FEPS and partners finds that European 0 to 3 years old children from the bottom 40% socio-economic status are about 15% more likely to attain average scores once teenagers, if they have access to childcare at the age of 1 or 2. The Study indicates that unless we provide quality and inclusive services, care and education in early years in Europe remains a means for children from better off households to achieve their best potential rather than a means to reduce inequalities and eradicate social exclusion.

Who?

Full text of the Call and list of the more than 300 signatories available in this link, divided in different categories: European politicians, national politicians, civil society and academia.

This is a joint initiative coordinated by: the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), S&D Parliamentary Group, the Party of European Socialists (PES), PES Group in the European Committee of the Regions, Pablo Iglesias Foundation (ES), Progresiva Društvo (SI), the Institute for Social Democracy (HU), Reggio Children (IT) and Save the Children Italy.

Crime

Over 40 arrested in biggest-ever crackdown against drug ring smuggling cocaine from Brazil into Europe

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In the early hours of the morning (27 November), more than a thousand police officers with the support of Europol carried out co-ordinated raids against the members of this highly professional criminal syndicate. Some 180 house searches were executed, resulting in the arrest of 45 suspects. 

The investigation uncovered that this drug trafficking network was responsible for the annual importation of at least 45 tonnes of cocaine into the main European seaports, with profits exceeding €100 million over the course of 6 months.

This international sting, led by the Portuguese, Belgian and Brazilian authorities, was carried out simultaneously by agencies from three different continents, with coordination efforts facilitated by Europol:

  • Europe: Portuguese Judicial Police (Polícia Judiciária), Belgian Federal Judicial Police (Federale Gerechtelijke Politie, Police Judiciaire Fédérale), Spanish National Police (Policia Nacional), Dutch Police (Politie) and the Romanian Police (Poliția Română)
  • South America: Brazilian Federal Police (Policia Federal)
  • Middle East: Dubai Police Force and Dubai State Security

Results in brief 

  • 45 arrests in Brazil (38), Belgium (4), Spain (1) and Dubai (2).
  • 179 house searches.
  • Over €12m in cash seized in Portugal, €300,000 in cash seized in Belgium and over R$1m and US$169,000 in cash seized in Brazil.
  • 70 luxury vehicles seized in Brazil, Belgium and Spain and 37 aircrafts seized in Brazil.
  • 163 houses seized in Brazil worth in excess of R$132m, two houses seized in Spain worth €4m, and two apartments seized in Portugal worth €2.5m.
  • Financial assets of 10 individuals frozen in Spain.

Global co-operation 

In the framework of intelligence activities underway with its operational counterparts, Europol developed reliable intelligence concerning the international drug trafficking and money laundering activities of a Brazilian organized crime network operating in several EU countries.

The criminal syndicate had direct contact with drug cartels in Brazil and other South American source countries who were responsible for the preparation and the shipments of cocaine in maritime containers bound to major European seaports.

The scale of cocaine importation from Brazil to Europe under their control and command is massive and over 52 tonnes of cocaine were seized by law enforcement over the course of the investigation.

In April 2020, Europol brought together the involved countries who have since been working closely together to establish a joint strategy to bring down the whole network. The main targets were identified on either sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Since then, Europol has provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators. During the action day, a total of 8 of its officers were deployed on-the-ground in Portugal, Belgium and Brazil to assist there the national authorities, ensuring swift analysis of new data as it was being collected during the action and adjusting the strategy as required.

Commenting on this operation, Europol’s Deputy Director Wil van Gemert said: "This operation highlights the complex structure and vast reach of Brazilian organized crime groups in Europe. The scale of the challenge faced today by police worldwide calls for a coordinated approach to tackle the drug trade across continents. The commitment of our partner countries to work via Europol underpinned the success of this operation and serves as a continued global call to action."

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EU

Navalny calls on Europe to follow the money

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The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee held an exchange of views with representatives of the Russian political opposition and NGOs on the current political and socio-economic situation in Russia.

Among the speakers was Alexei Navalny, who has recently recovered from being poisoned with a nerve agent similar to the one used in the Salisbury attack targeted at Sergei Skirpal and his daughter. 

Navalny called on Europe to adopt a new strategy towards Russia, that meets the new developments in Russian state leadership. He said that the forthcoming elections for the State Duma would be an absolutely crucial event and that everyone should be able to participate. If opposition politicians are not allowed to participate he asked the European Parliament and every European politician not to recognize the outcome.

Navalny told MEPs that it was not enough to sanction those responsible for carrying out his poisoning and that there was little sense in sanctioning those who didn’t travel a lot or who didn’t own assets in Europe. Instead, he said the main question that should be asked is who gained financially from Putin’s regime. Navalny pointed to the oligarchs, not just the old ones, but the new ones in Putin’s inner circle, with name-checks for Usmanov and Roman Abramovich. He said that these sanctions would be warmly welcomed by most Russians. 

On the various decisions of the European Court of Human Rights that have been ignored by the Russian judiciary, Navalny said it would be very easy to sanction them to prevent them from traveling to Europe and it would be very effective.

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coronavirus

Commission approves German scheme to compensate accommodation providers in the field of child and youth education for damages suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission approved, under EU state aid rules, a German scheme to compensate accommodation providers for child and youth education for the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will compensate up to 60% of the loss of revenues incurred by eligible beneficiaries in the period between the beginning of the lockdown (which started on different dates across the regional states) and 31 July 2020 when their accommodation facilities had to be closed due to the restrictive measures implemented in Germany.

When calculating the loss of revenue, any reductions in costs resulting from income generated during the lockdown and any possible financial aid granted or actually paid out by the state (and in particular granted under scheme SA.58464) or third parties to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak will be deducted. At the central government level, facilities eligible to apply will have at their disposal a budget of up to €75 million.

However, these funds are not earmarked exclusively for this scheme. In addition, regional authorities (at Länder or local level) may also make use of this scheme from the local budgets. In any event, the scheme ensures that the same eligible costs cannot be compensated twice by different administrative levels. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors for the damages caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the German scheme will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damages. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules.

More information on actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59228 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website.

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