On 1 July 2021, members of the Interest Group on Solidarity between Generations exchanged with the incoming Slovenian Presidency of the Council about the priorities regarding ageing and demographic change in the next half-year. Background is the Trio Presidency declaration on ageing, agreed by Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, and the past work on Council conclusions on human rights of older persons and on mainstreaming ageing in public policies under the German and Portuguese presidencies. The Slovenian presidency aims to carry this work further
Mr Jaroslaw Duda, member of the European Parliament (Poland, EPP) opened the meeting calling for a white paper on ageing in the follow-up to the Green Paper. He also called for the European Accessibility Act to be implemented comprehensively to make our living environments more inclusive. He underlined that digitalisation of services such as banking risks raises barriers for many persons and we should not accept this, but rather pursue a rights-based approach on ageing.
Mr Milan Brglez, member of the European Parliament (Slovenia, S&D) underlined the European Parliament’s work with the report on ‘Old Continent Growing Older’, currently debated at Committee level.
Ms Janja Kaker Kavar of the Permanent Representation of Slovenia to the European Union presented the work programme of the Slovenian Presidency. The Presidency will aim to keep ageing on the top of the agenda under the motto of a ‘resilient Europe’. The Presidency will promote sustainable labour markets, for example with the debate on the Framework for Health and Safety at Work. In response to a report by the European Court of Auditors, it will strengthen gender equality through Council conclusions on gender equality and on violence against women. A major conference on fighting ageism is planned as well in November.
Ms Heidrun Mollenkopf, Vice-President of AGE Platform Europe and member of the board of the German Federation of Senior Citizen’s Organisations BAGSO, welcomed that Slovenia is set to continue the path set by the German and Portuguese presidencies. She underlined that the EU must learn the lessons of the thousands of lives lost during the pandemic, due to the lack of protection and equipment, but also due to isolation. The EU should step up its policies on quality long-term care to support the rights to autonomy and independence as well.
Ms Annemie Drieskens, President of COFACE-Families Europe, reminded the role of families in the Pandemic, which showed that families need more support. Support should be given to work-life balance, together with essential services and accessibility. The Digital Services Act should be made child-proof. Overall, we should take an intergenerational approach that promotes the rights of children, parents and grandparents in the recovery. Especially child poverty must be addressed, as well as the poverty of families. In all policies, demographic developments must be addressed, but families should not be seen as a tool to solve demographic challenges, rather as rights-bearers, so that people can build the families they want.
Mr Frank Bogovic, member of the European Parliament (Slovenia, EPP) outlined the importance of supporting rural areas, where demographic change is felt more strongly. The idea of smart villages in the south of Slovenia can be part of this solution. Solidarity between generations is extremely important and intergenerational cooperation is needed to build it. Cohesion in societies makes them more resilient, and supporting families is part of this.
Ms Nina Simenc of the Permanent representation of Slovenia to the EU praised the work of the German and Portuguese presidencies in raising the importance of ageing in EU policies. She highlighted that the synopsis report of the consultation on the Green Paper on Ageing will be the basis of the discussion of a meeting of the Council of ministers for Employment, Social Affairs, Consumers and Health.
Mr Lukas Mandl, member of the European Parliament (Austria, EPP) said that the pandemic has shown the importance of solidarity between generations. He underlined the importance of the Child Guarantee, as society has an obligation to take care of the opportunities of children when families need support. He also underlined that a solution for demographic challenges is building the competitiveness of the EU.
Mr Milan Brglez closed the meeting by calling for the instruments developed during the pandemic, such as the SURE unemployment reinsurance scheme, the General Escape Clause and the Recovery and Resilience Facility should be analysed and a reflection should take place on what should be made permanent, to prepare the future of all generations. He underlined that the gender pension gap and gender differences should be addressed because of their strong impact. He announced that separate meetings of the interest group should be held on the issue of informal care and on long-term care.