AGE presents its manifesto to European People Party’s President

On 19 December 2018, AGE Secretary-General Anne-Sophie Parent was invited to meet the President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Mr Joseph Daul and the Deputy-Secretary-General of the party. She discussed AGE expectations regarding the EU action to combat age discrimination and ageism, foster older workers’ access to the labour market, allow older persons to combine work and pensions and promote access to quality health and long-term care. Most proposals were met with enthusiasm by the EPP President.

Need to fight age discrimination as a clear signal to citizens

Ms. Parent outlined the challenge of clearly explaining to voters, especially older voters, what they can expect from the European Union and these elections, and how the European Parliament can influence older people’s lives. A concrete measure for this would be to make the fight against age discrimination and other grounds of discrimination more visible in EU internal and external action.’

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EPP President, Mr Joseph Daul


Caring for older people and their place in our societies is an important concern for the EPP. We must make sure that all generations can fully participate in the labour market and that nobody is discriminated because of age. We need safe and equitable pensions – for today and for future generations. Everybody should be able to live in dignity and to participate fully in our societies.’

Mr Joseph Daul, President of the European People’s Party

Employment and retirement policies that support active ageing

As Ms. Parent explained, combating age discrimination is also key for changing the perception of ageing and allowing older people to work for longer if they so wish. The EPP President agreed that it is a nonsense to prohibit working after retirement, as many sectors are lacking skilled workforce and work realities have changed in some sectors, making work less strenuous.

Both agreed that the EU has a role to play here. Ms. Parent shared some examples where AGE’s policy work has been decisive: in access to supplementary pensions, AGE successfully lobbied for reducing the vesting periods that workers need to start acquiring pension rights, a measure that benefits many younger workers who have much shorter job tenures in today’s labour markets.
    

Gender equality and solidarity between generations

Discussions also covered the crucial role of solidarity between generations, a key principle for AGE, as older people are first and foremost interested in the well-being of their grandchildren. Transformations such as the growth of new types of employment, that leave many young people without access to pension, unemployment or health insurance rights are a big challenge to them.

Furthermore, Ms Parent stressed the questions of gender equality, pointing out the large pension gap between women and men remaining and some pension reforms going against the idea of gender equality, such as the reintroduction of different pension ages for women and men. Both agreed that survivor’s pensions are an important right safeguarding many older women from old-age poverty.
  

The EU’s role in health policies

On health policies, Mr. Daul and Ms. Parent exchanged on the evolution in the European medicines market. Europe is more and more dependent on imports for basic medication, which poses not only a challenge for European jobs, but also for security from shocks in world trade and challenges for the security of drugs itself. This is a key area where the EU could take action to avoid shortages.

Mr. Daul and Ms. Parent convened that they would like to collaborate further to encourage older citizens to make an informed vote in this year’s European Parliament’s elections.
  

For more information, please contact Philippe Seidel Leroy at the AGE Secretariat: philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu 

AGE elections toolkit: how to lead your national campaign

AGE Platform Europe has released the European Parliament Elections toolkit for senior citizens’ organisations. In the toolkit, the role and the power of the EP is explained, and proposals are made on how national campaigns could be led. Proposals are:

  • Stay informed about your national parties’ demands and actions
  • Set up your own manifesto
  • Write letters and emails to candidates
  • Organise public debates or hearings with different candidates
  • Join the institutional campaign: ‘This Time, I’m Voting’
  • Use social media to spread your messages and explain the importance of including them in the campaign
  • Join the elections campaigns of other EU networks

AGE members [should] encourage older citizens in their countries to take part in these elections, and ensure that candidates understand the challenges related to the ageing population and most of all the daily realities and needs of older people. As a civil society organisation defending the rights of older people in your country, […] seize that opportunity to raise awareness among the candidates of the issues that concern older people.

AGE EP Elections Toolkit

What Europe does for me? – European Parliament launches new website

While the European elections are getting closer, the European Parliament has launched a new multi-lingual interactive website to illustrate concretely what difference the EU is making in the lives of Europeans.

How does Europe affect our everyday lives? How does it impact our jobs, our families, our health care, our hobbies, our journeys, our security, our consumer choices and our social rights? And how is Europe present in our towns, cities and regions? The portal What Europe Does For Me provides answer to those questions through three different chapters:

  • In my region: this section lists the different initiatives supported by the EU in over 1 400 regions and cities across the European Union.
  • In my life: the section provides a snapshot of EU action for citizens, as individuals, through a series of short notes with concrete examples. Some of them may be of particular interest to older persons, such as: Seniors using e-health services, Pensioners, Vulnerable pedestrians, Patients in rural areas, Train passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility, People with Alzheimer’s, People with disabilities, Older workers, Payment card users, People suffering from loneliness, Informal carers, Vulnerable consumers, etc.
  • In focus: longer briefing papers on EU policies explore some EU achievements and the outlook for the future action in selected policy areas.

This website, which will be complemented with more material in more EU languages over the coming months, also reminds that “Europe, or ‘Brussels’, cannot decide things on its own or in a vacuum. And the EU can only act when a goal can be best achieved together than by individual countries acting independently.”

Access here the portal What Europe Does For You

Read more in the European Parliament’s press release

AGE presents European Parliament Manifesto in Barcelona

Marking the International Day of Older Persons, AGE Platform Europe in collaboration with the European Parliament Office and the Representation of the European Commission in Barcelona organised on 5th October 2018 the seminar “Achieving Equal Rights and Dignity for Older Persons”. The event gathered several of the local decision-makers who work in the field of ageing from Barcelona and Catalonia as well as representatives of older persons and wider civil society.

This event was an opportunity for AGE to present the manifesto that we have prepared for the European elections in close consultation with our members.

A useful tool for EU, national and local policy-makers

The seminar was opened by the director of the Office of the European Parliament in Barcelona, ​​Sergi Barrera and Mark Jeffery, the head of the European Commission’s Representation in Barcelona. They both reaffirmed the interest of European Union’s bodies to promote policies that ensure the well-being and the quality of life of older persons.

Verònica Lope, member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament, referred to several urgent issues faced by older people in Spain and across the EU, including in terms of adequate pensions and the challenges faced by older people living in rural areas. At the end of her presentation Ms. Lope supported the AGE manifesto, which she considered a very good basis for action at European level, while also underlining that measures at national and local level are needed to address demographic ageing and guarantee the dignity of older people.

The panel at the Barcelona event

Nena Georgantzi, Policy Coordinator on Human Rights and Non-Discrimination of AGE Platform Europe, presented the main objectives of the manifesto emphasizing among other issues the need to fight ageism and the double discrimination faced by older women due to age and gender. She also made recommendations about how to better protect the rights of older people at EU level.

Neus Pociello, director of the Aroa Foundation and responsible for International Affairs for AGE member FOCAGG, explained that the AGE manifesto is a valuable tool not only for Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) but also for all those involved in national and local politics. She also highlighted that the process of producing the document with direct involvement of older people is very important as it reflects the genuine voice and needs of citizens. Moreover she added that the manifesto can act as an information and empowerment tool for older people to monitor action taken and hold accountable their elected representatives. Finally, she called for the need to engage several actors of civil society in order to pursue the objectives of the manifesto.

The event finished with a round of interventions from local actors, namely Ms. Laia Ortiz, Deputy Mayor of the Barcelona City Council, who stressed the influence of the European agenda on the local agenda and Mr. David Agustí, responsible for Ageing policies in the Catalan government, who explained the participatory process they have developed through the establishment of the Council of Older People of Catalonia. Finally, representatives of local non profit organisations (NGOs), including AGE members FATEC and FOCAGG, took the floor raising specific issues faced by older people at local level.

On the occasion of the presentation of the AGE manifesto in Barcelona, Nena Georgantzi also gave a radio interview, which is available here (in Spanish).

More information about the event can be found here (in catalan).

Commission’s InvestEU proposal – Joint letter from the social sector

Investing in quality, innovative and sustainable social infrastructure – Joint letter from the social sector on the European Commission’s InvestEU proposal

In view of influencing the objectives of post 2020 EU investments, AGE Platform Europe together with other actors representing the social services, health, education and social housing sectors addressed to the European Commission a letter calling to unlock investment into innovative, sustainable and quality social infrastructure projects. The call responds to the European Commission’s proposal from last June to launch a new fund, called InvestEU, for the period 2021-2027 (read the Commission’s press release here).  The fund aims at mobilising €650 billion to finance sustainable infrastructure and is the continuation of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments.

While welcoming the general orientation of the InvestEU fund, the cosignatories of the letter pledge for additional changes for the fund in order to enable lasting innovation in the social, health, education and housing and ageing sectors in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We urged in particular the European Commission to ensure that the money which public authorities will spend across the EU addresses the needs of the people they serve. This should help both to increase public satisfaction and reduce costs. Considering the growing needs for quality infrastructure in the fields of social care and support, social housing, health or education, it is only through consistent public investment that Europe can guarantee the affordability, availability, adaptability, accessibility and quality of services for its citizens including older persons.  Moreover it will be also important to explore and identify new ways to spread out the risk of such public investment through other long-term investment mechanisms; yet without undermining the aforementioned requirements.

For more details please see the full version of the letter or contact Maciej Kucharczyk, maciej.kucharczyk@age-platform.eu

AGE addresses joint call for stronger supervision powers of the European Supervisory Authorities

AGE has joined forces to denounce a disappointing European Parliament draft report on the review of the European System of Financial Supervision. The proposal drafted by the ECON committee does not include the joint amendments that we submitted to strengthen the protection of European financial services users.

We believe a strong supervision mandate will be crucial to ensure the protection of consumers of all ages, especially for products that have a very long-term impact on their lives and living standards, such as personal pension products. Moreover, a proper representation of consumers is indespensible for this, as well as the finiancial support and research into consumer-related issues. Supervisory convergence should also be part of the mandate of EU Supervisory Authorities.

To see the the call, please click here.

For any questions or comments, please contact: Philippe.Seidel@age-platform.eu

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Draft EU Horizontal non-discrimination Directive: Ten years on and sadly nothing to show for it

It is now 10 year since the European Commission proposed an important anti-discrimination law to ban discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in all areas of social life. This directive aimed to propose a EU-wide minimum level of protection against discrimination  through a horizontal approach, complementing the current EU Employment Equality Directive which forbids discrimination in employment. Unfortunately the proposed directive has been blocked by the Council of the European Union since 2008.

To mark this ‘failed’ anniversary, AGE together with 5 other European non discrimination NGOs released a joint statement to express their concern about this lack of action in the current context of growing populism. We jointly call for the adoption of a strong legal framework to protect all people in the European Union against discrimination in all areas of life. 

Read our joint statement here

Our joint statement follows the publication of  an article in Euractiv by Birgit Van Hout, the regional representative for Europe of the UN Human Rights Office, and Tena Šimonović Einwalter, the chair of the executive board of Equinet, the European Network of Equality Bodies. This article denounces an unfair situation which deprives 508 million people in Europe of effective protection against discrimination because of reportedly two EU member states which continue to oppose the directive, and despite the large support in favour of this directive.

The horizontal non-discrimnation directive was also the topic of Town Hall Discussion on advancing anti-discrimination and equality law in Europe, organised in Brussels on 31 May by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner – Europe Regional Office (UNOHCHR Europe) and Equinet. Read more on this event here

NGOs calls for an ambitious Rights & Values Programme 2021-2027 to support human rights and democracy

On 30 May 2018 the European Commission proposed the creation of a new Rights and Values funding programme in the new programing period 2021-2027 (read EC press release). The objective of this new funding proposal is to fight inequalities and discrimination and address the rise in extremism and radicalism in Europe.

Together with a coalition of NGOs, AGE warmly welcomes the new proposal that, we hope, will help protect the achievements of European integration. For that reason, we jointly call on the EU institutions and national policy leaders to make sure that the Rights and Values Programme 2021-2027 will be ambitious enough to meet the needs of civil society organisations at European level and on the ground in view of the current increasing challenges to democracy and human rights within the European Union.

Recalling that the respect and enjoyment of human rights by all is a fundamental feature of our democratic societies, the eight signatories of our joint letter to EU leaders insist on the need for strong action to protect the EU’s rule of law and address the disenchantment of many Europeans.
  

Read here our joint open letter 

AGE joins widespread call to ministers on EU work-life balance directive

AGE co-signed the open letter sent by several European umbrella organisations to the EU employment and social affairs ministers prior to their meeting for the EPSCO Council on 21 June. In the letter, AGE and other networks representing families, women, persons with disabilities, carers, children and others urge ministers to adopt a general approach towards the proposal for a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers this week.
  

Addressing a manifold ageing challenge

The Commission proposal, if adopted, contains important achievements for the growing number of older people. Many older people, most of them women, are reducing their working time or leaving employment altogether to take care of their family members in need for care and support. 80% of care work is indeed provided by informal carers in Europe – two thirds of whom are women. And this already very high percentage is expected to increase with the ageing of the population and the significant budget cuts affecting healthcare systems in many EU countries. 

Not only does this reality reduce especially women’s pensions and exacerbates their risk of poverty and social exclusion, health and isolation, but this is also a severe strain for the European economy, with employers losing the experience and workforce of these carers. In a context where the European workforce is shrinking due to demographic shifts, this constitutes a high cost for societies.
  

AGE supports concrete proposals in favour of informal care and gender balance 

AGE fully supports the idea in the Commission proposal to introduce five days of remunerated carers’ leave per worker and per year. With this proposal, carers are recognised for the first time at European level for the economic and social contributions they bring to our societies and economies. With these five days, family members can arrange person-centred, formal care arrangements if these are made available by member states. AGE also supports the introduction of the right to request flexible working arrangements, that can help carers, often older workers, reconcile their duties with employment in the longer term.

AGE also supports the provisions aiming for a more equal distribution of childcare between parents. The gender differences that are created by women interrupting their careers for a much longer time than men, and working part-time more often than men, have lifetime consequences. Currently, the gender pension gap is of almost 40% and the European Council have rightly identified this as a problem to tackle in the 2018 Pension Adequacy Report and prior Council conclusions on the gender pension gap. The proposals of the Commission, if adopted, can help to close this gap.
  

AGE therefore joins the call to the EPSCO Council of civil society organisations, Trade Unions, MEPs and members of the European Economic and Social Committee to swiftly adopt a general approach to the directive.
 

Update: Council decision 

During its meeting on 21st June, the Council agreed a general approach on Work-life balance. Carers will have right to a care leave and to request flexible working arrangements. However, no minimum payment for leave has been agreed. Although the obligations upon EU Member States are very limited (read this article by Families Europe), this is a first step toward a better recognition of carers. Read more in our article on the Council meeting.

For any questions or requests, please contact Philippe Seidel, philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu

AGE General Assembly published its Manifesto for the European elections 2019

On 7 June 2018, during its General Assembly, AGE member organisations adopted their Manifesto for the upcoming European Parliament Elections 2019. AGE Manifesto covers the major issues to be addressed to enhance the older people’s human rights in an ageing Europe. 

Pledging for a holistic approach, AGE Manifesto covers areas in which further action is needed to enhance older people’s rights. In this key advocacy document, AGE members provide recommendations to candidates MEP to help enforce older persons’ equal rights to take an active part in society and to live and age in dignity. In view of promoting and facilitating holistic approach to policy making on ageing, our Manifesto indicates and encourages to use synergies between the existing policy processes and frameworks at global and EU levels – in particular the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the European Pillar of Social Right, the European Semester together with other EU strategies, such as the Digital Single Market. They all provide member states with necessary basis to take action on the protection of human rights in old age. Finally, AGE members call for
an ambitious EU budget 2021-2027 to deliver on EU post 2020 social and non-discrimination objectives, as well as for a renewed political impulse to unblock the draft horizontal non-discrimination directive.

  
Read more in our press release

Access AGE Manifesto here (available in English and French and translated by our members into Italian, Spanish and Maltese)