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Commission proposes action to uphold child rights and support children in need

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The Commission has adopted the first comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, as well as a proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, to promote equal opportunities for children at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In preparation of both initiatives, the Commission, in association with leading global child rights organisations, collected the views of over 10,000 children.

EU Strategy: six thematic areas & proposed action

  1. Children as agents of change in democratic life: The Commission is proposing a range of actions – from producing child-friendly legal texts to holding consultations with children in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe and the implementation of the Climate Pact and Green Deal. Member States should also enable the participation of children in civic and democratic life.
  2. The right of children to realise their full potential no matter their social background: The Commission is seeking to establish a European Child Guarantee to combat child poverty and social exclusion. The Commission will also for example, address children's mental health and help support healthy and sustainable food in EU schools. The Commission will strive for better EU-wide early education and care standards and build inclusive, quality education.
  3. The right of children to be free from violence: The Commission will propose legislation to combat gender-based and domestic violence and table recommendations to prevent harmful practices against women and girls. Member States are invited to build integrated child protection systems and improve their functioning, as well as to strengthen response to violence in schools, and to adopt national legislation to put an end to corporal punishment in all settings.
  4. The right of children to child-friendly justice, as victims, witnesses, suspects, accused of having committed a crime, or party to any legal proceeding. The Commission will, for example, contribute to specialised judicial training and work with the Council of Europe to implement the 2010 Guidelines on Child Friendly Justice, Member States are invited to support training for example, and to develop robust alternatives to judicial action such as alternatives to detention or mediation in civil cases.
  5. The right of children to safely navigate the digital environment and harness its opportunities: The Commission will update the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children and the proposed Digital Services Act aims to provide a safe online experience. The Commission is calling on Member States to effectively implement the rules on protection of children contained in the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive and to support the development of children's basic digital skills. The Commission also urges ICT companies to address harmful behaviour online and remove illegal content.
  6. The rights of children across the globe: Children's rights are universal and the EU reinforces its commitment to protect, promote and fulfil these rights globally and in the multilateral sphere. This will be achieved for example by allocating 10% of humanitarian aid funding for education in emergencies and protracted crises. The Commission will prepare a Youth Action Plan by 2022 to promote youth and child participation globally, and to strengthen child protection capacities within EU Delegations. The Commission also maintains a zero tolerance policy on child labour.

The new European Child Guarantee

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In 2019, almost 18 million children in the EU (22.2% of the child population) lived in households at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This leads to an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage, with profound and long‐term effects on children. The European Child Guarantee aims to break this cycle and promote equal opportunities by guaranteeing access to a set of key services for children in need (under 18 year olds at risk of poverty or social exclusion).

Under the European Child Guarantee, it is recommended to Member States to provide free and effective access for children in need to:

  • Early childhood education and care – for example, avoid segregated classes;
  • education and school-based activities – for example, adequate equipment for distance learning, and school trips;
  • at least one healthy meal each school day, and;
  • health care – for example, facilitating access to medical examinations and health screening programmes.

These services should be free of charge and readily available to children in need.

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The Commission also recommends that Member States provide children in need with effective access to healthy nutrition and adequate housing: For example, children should receive healthy meals also outside of school days, and homeless children and their families should have access to adequate accommodation.

Democracy and Demography Vice President Dubravka Šuica said: “This new EU comprehensive Strategy on the Rights of the Child is a milestone in our work for and with children. We thank each and every child for their contribution to this important initiative. It sends a message of hope and it is a call to action throughout the EU and beyond. With this Strategy, we renew our commitment to build healthier, resilient and equal societies for all, where every child is included, protected and empowered. The politics of today and tomorrow are made both for and together with our children. This is how we strengthen our democracies.”

When identifying children in need and designing their national measures, member states should take into account the specific needs of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those experiencing homelessness, disabilities, those with precarious family situations, a migrant background, a minority racial or ethnic background or those in alternative care.

EU funding to support these actions is available under the European Social Fund Plus (EFS+), which finances projects that promote social inclusion, fight poverty and invest in people, as well as the European Regional Development Fund, InvestEU, and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said: “Every child in the EU is entitled to the same protection and access to key services, regardless of their background. Yet one in three children in the EU have experienced some form of differential treatment. From unequal access to digital technology or socio-economic support, to a lack of protection from abuse at home, far too many children need additional help. The new strategy we are presenting today is a plan to provide this.”

Next steps

The implementation of the EU Strategy will be monitored at EU and national levels, and the Commission will report back on progress at the annual EU Forum on the Rights of the Child. An evaluation of the strategy will be conducted at the end of 2024, with the participation of children.

The Commission calls on Member States to swiftly adopt the proposal for the Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee. Within six months after its adoption, governments are encouraged to submit to the Commission national action plans on how to implement it. The Commission will monitor progress through the European Semester and issue, where necessary, country-specific recommendations.

Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said: “Even before the pandemic, 22% of children in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This should be unthinkable in Europe. Over the past year, these pre-existing inequalities have become even greater. We need to break this dangerous cycle and make sure that children in need have access to a healthy meal, education, healthcare and adequate housing, no matter their background. The Commission stands ready to support member states in any way it can to make a real difference to children's lives.”

Background

As underlined by more than 10,000 children in their contribution to the preparation of today's package, children in and outside of the EU continue to suffer from socio-economic exclusion and discrimination because of their origin, status, gender or sexual orientation – or that of their parents. Children's voices are not always heard and their views not always taken on board in matters that concern them. These challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission is responding with an overarching Strategy for the next four years that aims to build on all EU action to protect and promote children's rights, with clear actions for improvement. It should also support Member States in making the best use of EU funds.

President von der Leyen announced the European Child Guarantee in her Political Guidelines for 2019-2024. The European Child Guarantee complements the second pillar of the Strategy on the Rights of the Child. It is also a key deliverable of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, adopted on 4 March 2021, and answers directly to Principle 11 of the Pillar: Childcare and support to children. The Action Plan proposes a target for the EU to reduce by at least 15 million the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 2030, including at least 5 million children.

More information

Webpage & Factsheets: EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child & European Child Guarantee

Questions and Answers

Press release – 'Children speak up about the rights and the future they want'

Our Europe. Our Rights. Our Future. Report in full / Summary Report here

Latest information on the European Pillar of Social Right Action Plan

EU Strategy on the rights of the child: Child friendly version

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Child protection

Disappearance of #migrant children: ALDE demands clear commitment from EU Commission and member states

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missing migrantsUpon the request of the ALDE Group, the European parliament today (1 March) held a debate on the measures needed to tackle the disappearance of migrant children in Europe. According to Europol, at least 10,000 migrant and refugee children have gone missing after arriving in Europe. The ALDE Group urges the Commission to come forward with a European policy framework to strengthen protection systems for refugee and migrant children, especially for unaccompanied minors.


ALDE MEP Hilde Vautmans, author of the question to the European commission, said: "It is a shame that neither the Commission nor member states assume their responsibility for these vulnerable and young individuals."
“The European Commission must keep up its promise and introduce a strong action plan for all migrant children in order to prevent and react to their disappearance."
“Migrant children must be treated as children and receive the same care and protection as our own. This requires decent living conditions without detention, swift asylum and family reunification procedures, as well as systematic reporting of disappearances, and identification and efficient cooperation between the member states and all relevant actors."
“We all need to take our responsibility and step up the relocation of these children. If not, they will remain in the hands of smugglers."

Nathalie Griesbeck, ALDE LIBE coordinator, added: It has already been one year since EUROPOL announced the disappearance of 10,000 migrant children in Europe and yet, almost nothing has been done."

"Solutions do exist: national authorities must identify and register every single migrant child. They should also assign them a tutor to accompany them and provide them with quality receptions facilities."
“These are simple and feasible solutions. However, to put them in place we need political will that is currently incredibly lacking today. The reality is scandalous and shameful: member states are not willing to cooperate. They do not respect their commitments, they don’t respect European law and they don’t apply the relocation scheme. I strongly condemn, not the EU inaction, but members states’ paralysis and hypocrisy."

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Abortion

#CzarnyProtest: MEPs stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Polish women

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161001czarnyprotest2The Polish government is planning to introduce some of the most severe anti-abortion legislation in Europe. If passed, the legislation will ban abortion even if it is the result of rape, incest or if the girl in question is under fifteen years of age.

The so-called ‘black protest' took place in Warsaw today (30 September) -  thousands of men and women took to the streets. The demonstration will be followed by a strike on Monday (2 October).

The European Parliament’s Social Democrat (S&D) spokesperson for gender equality Marie Arena MEP, who joined the protest, said: “Even the existing laws in Poland are some of the most restrictive in Europe. Despite some exceptions, they effectively leave thousands of women with no legal access to abortion. These new proposals go beyond this and further threaten women’s health, their fundamental rights and basic human dignity.

"The proposals would mean that a thirteen-year-old girl who has been raped by a relative would become a criminal if she terminates the pregnancy. We, as women and as Europeans, have a responsibility to stand up for the rights of girls like this. We are proud to be standing side-by-side with the thousands of Polish women and men marching here today for fundamental rights.”

Birgit Sippel MEP from the Civil Liberties committee said: “We are here this weekend to show our support for Polish citizens, for civil society and for democracy.  Being part of the EU means ensuring that certain unalienable principles are respected. These are under threat in Poland. We are here today to support Polish women in their fight for their fundamental rights. The Polish parliament needs to listen to the will of the people and reject these proposals in their entirety.

“We also must not turn a blind eye to the changes already made by the Polish government. The changes to the press law and constitutional court are a threat to the independence of the media and the judiciary. This is not just the opinion of the S&D Group, this is the opinion of all independent international bodies who have looked at the issue. Poland must immediately change direction and accept the proposals put forward by the European Commission.”

Since the Prawo I Sprawiedliwość (PiS: Law and Justice Party) victory in last year’s general election, a number of concerns have been raised about the ‘rule of law’ in Poland. The actions of the new government triggered the European Commission’s ‘rule of law’ procedure.

Recent events in Poland, concerning in particular the Constitutional Court, have led the European Commission to open a dialogue with the Polish Government in order to ensure the full respect of the rule of law. The Commission considers it necessary that Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal is able to fully carry out its responsibilities under the Constitution, and in particular to ensure an effective constitutional review of legislative acts.

Background

Commission issues 'rule of law' recommendation to Poland

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Belgium

#InternationalWomensDay: Providing support for women refugees

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women refugee

As the number of refugees in Europe continues to climb, the European Parliament wants to draw the attention to those who are among the most vulnerable: women and girls. This is why for this year's International Women's Day, which is held every year on 8 March, it has selected as its theme women refugees. On Wednesday 2 March and Thursday 3 March, the European Parliament is organising several special events to call attention to their situation. 

Photo exhibition

Parliament's visitors centre Parlamentarium in Brussels hosts a photo exhibition showcasing the plight of women refugees throughout their journey across Europe. Parliament had asked award winning photojournalist Marie Dorigny from France to create a photo reportage on the matter. The exhibition is officially opened on 2 March in the presence of  the photographer and Parliament Vice-President Sylvie Guillaume, a French member of the S&D group.  The exhibition can be visited for free until 1 June 2016.

Meeting with members of national parliaments

Parliament's women's rights committee organises an interparliamentary committee meeting on Thursday 3 March. The meeting brings together MEPs, national MPs from member states, candidate countries and Norway as well as representatives from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) and the European Commission. The idea is to discuss how to combat violence against women refugees, their situation in healthcare and measures to promote their integration.

The meeting is presided by women's rights committee chair Iratxe García-Pérez (S&D, Spain) while Parliament President Martin Schulz, former Irish President Mary Robinson and Nawal Soufi, a volunteer involved with helping refugees, open the event. Participants include, amongst others, MEPs Ernest Urtasun (Greens/EFA, Spain), Barbara Matera (EPP, Italy),  Maria Noichl (S&D, Germany), Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, Italy), Catherine Bearder (ALDE, UK), Mary Honeyball, (S&D, UK) and Malin Björk (GUE/NGL, Sweden) as well as members of the national parliaments  such as Gisela Wurm (Austria), Anna Vikström (Sweden) and Petra Stienen (the Netherlands).

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