Belgium: How can the EU improve the lives of older people according to the Flemish political parties?

May 25th, the citizens in Flanders will be able to cast their votes for the Flemish, federal and European elections. To facilitate their choice on who to vote for, the Flemish Council of the Elderly has asked all democratic parties that participate in all three elections for their positions on the issues that matter for older people.

Below, you can read what they would do at EU level to improve the lives of older people. You can find the entire brochure here (Dutch only).

Groen

Green party, member of the European Green Party (EGP)

At European level, we turn around the race to the social bottom. At this moment, every country competes to keep the pension burdens as low as possible. Instead the member states should decide to implement minimum limits for pensions that are adequate to eradicate poverty. We investigate the possibility to implement a European basic pension that can vary based on national poverty thresholds. This way, we change disloyal competition into cooperation.

By 2020 the European Union wants to lift 20 million people out of poverty, but her actions on social issues are too weak to realize this goal. Therefore, Groen wants powerful European instruments for poverty policy, for example binding EU directives. Specifically for older people, a directive will be introduced aiming to reduce poverty among older people drastically by 2020. Another directive will ensure that all pension benefits will be linked to the evolution of the wages in each member state, and not just to inflation,.

Open Vld

Liberal party, member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE Party)

Pensions, elderly care and healthcare will need more financial meansbecause of demographic ageing. This is why Open Vld aims at economic growth, so we have strong fundaments to build up our social policy. And the importance of Europe for our prosperity cannot be underestimated.

Open Vld is the most pro-European party. We want to address the cross-border economic and social challenges together. Several examples: it’s at the European level that we must ensure that banks start to give funding to small and medium enterprises (SME’s) again, that we can guarantee the supply of energy and that people in other member states can go to work (and carry their pension rights with them, as was decided recently). In the last few years, Europe has strengthened competition, reducing the prices for consumers (for example in mobile phones services). We should follow this road in the coming years, especially with regard to trade in services. We also want a greater role for the European Union in the active approach against cross-border criminality, terrorism and violent racism.

In short: the strong European Union that Open Vld with Guy Verhofstadt is working towards, must ensure the prosperity and well-being of the European citizens.

Sp.a

Social-democratic party, member of the Party of European Socialists (PES)

There is no future for the European Union, unless it’s a social one. Every European, old or young, should be able to count on a guaranteed minimum of social protection with universal access to health care, income support and livelihood. Europe should keep a close eye on the member states, to ensure that they deliver the necessary efforts to combat poverty, unemployment and inequality. Just like she does for the budgets of her member states.

Europe must stimulate more sustainable and efficient care. The budget control in the European Semester is an important instrument to encourage member states to address the inefficiencies in their health care systems, like encouraging smart spending and maximizing health gains. We will strengthen the European Social Investment Pact, which aims to help member states to spend their social and health care budgets more efficiently, in order to increase the expediency of the health care systems. We also improve the guidance of member states when they receive financial support, like the European Social Funds.

In Flanders, a person loses on average one healthy life year because of exposure to air pollution. On top of that, this exposure is distributed very unevenly. For sensitive persons, like older people, children or asthma patients, this number is even higher. Emissions of particulate matter is an environmental problem that is passed on to the weak. Sp.a pleads for stronger regulation of the standards for emissions of particulate matter at European level, that takes the health effects of these emissions into account en that is based on the standards of the World Health Organisation.

N-VA

Flemish-national party, member of the European Free Alliance (EFA)

For the N-VA, it is crystal clear that the essential element for improving the lives of older people is a structurally healthy economic foundation. You simply cannot create social welfare, for older people as well, on an economical graveyard. Therefore, the European economy needs stability. A well-functioning euro and a solid economic foundation are important, not in the least for social progress. Europe should focus itself fully on structurally restoring the economic foundations of its member states. First of all, this means that the member states must take responsibility and restore the confidence of the financial markets. It’s very important that they carry out the necessary budget cuts, reforms and investments.

In the context of the EU 2020 targets, encouraging innovation is crucial. In this view, among others the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing was launched. The N-VA stimulates its further elaboration and encourages Flemish actors to participate in this as much as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are important challenges. The members of the European Parliament of N-VA have always had a specific focus for this issue, which is why they are part of the working group on Alzheimer’s disease in the European Parliament.

CD&V

Christian-democratic party, member of the European Peoples Party (EPP)

Europe aims at active and healthy ageing. In 2025 more than 20% of the European people will be 65 years or older. The fact that people live longer, is a success story. Our European policy wants to increase the success of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing. Our goal? To increase the amount of healthy life years with 2 years by 2020.

Active ageing also means being able to travel freely through Europe or having the choice to settle oneself in another member state, with the same access to health care as in the home country and without losing pension rights. This is an important achievement for our way of life and quality of life. But not all elderly have these possibilities. There are still member states where no minimum pension is in place and/or where older people don’t receive adequate care. Guaranteeing a decent standard of living, improving a healthy and dignified way of ageing, and at the same time ensuring the safety and sustainability of the social security systems, have a high priority for us.

And of course we also put up efforts for older people who reside in our own country. In the European Parliament, we encourage far-reaching coordination of the pension systems of the member states, and make the member states reform their pension systems in order to safeguard them financially and to ensure they provide an adequate standard of living.

PVDA+

Socialist party, currently not represented in the European Parliament

The European Commission aims for the privatization of our pensions. The legal pensions are being reduced to a minimal protection against poverty. Everything else is transferred to the private market.

For PVDA+, these are the wrong policies. Private pensions are pensions of inequality. A company’s CEO puts millions of euro’s in his occupational and private pension, while receiving many fiscal benefits. An employee only several thousand euro’s. That won’t bring much to the table when the health care and hospital bills arrive.

Legal pensions are the best pensions, not only from the perspective of solidarity, but also in spreading risks and protecting people’s rights. They will be sustainable when we realize a fair fiscal system. Nowadays, large companies pay almost no taxes. Flanders is a fiscal hell for those who work, and a fiscal paradise for those who speculate.

The Belgian Advisory Committee for the Pension Sector (now called the Federal Advisory Board for Older People) demands the introduction of a property tax. The PVDA+ supports this demand (a tax of 1% on properties of 1 million euro, family residence not included). Such a tax already exists in France and delivers good results.

There is no reason not to introduce this in Belgium. There is also no reason not to introduce them on a European level, together with a more efficient approach regarding fiscal fraud, by lifting bank secrecy, the transparency of financial transactions and a zero tolerance against big fraudsters.

 

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