The European Parliament addresses ageing in the EU’s regions

The European Parliament is currently debating a report under the title ‘Reversing demographic trends in EU regions using cohesion policy instruments‘. While the report is written by the Committee on Regional Development, the Employment and Social Affairs committee has now finalised its opinion. In the opinion, the Committee calls for initiatives such as a charter of the rights of older persons, a framework directive on long-term care and a European care strategy, investments into public services and quality of life in rural areas as well as opportunities for intergenerational exchanges.

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“It cannot happen again” – European Parliament discusses the tragic impacts of COVID-19 on residential care

The European Parliament plenary debated, on 8 October 2020, the impact of the pandemic in long-term care facilities. There was a large consensus that there have been serious breaches of the dignity of older people and people with disabilities.

Responding to an introductory statement by European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica, many Members of the Parliament (MEPs) recognised structural problems in long-term care systems. MEP Benoît Lutgen (EPP/Belgium), focused on the deeply rooted lack of choice for older people in need of care:

EP Portrait of MEP Benoît Lutgen

“We need to respect the choice of older people to go or not to go to care homes. People are in care homes because we haven’t looked at the range of actors that can support them to live at home. We must see the bigger picture.”

Most highlighted EU’s shared responsibility and governance mechanisms available – be it through the European Semester or the provision of EU funds – to coordinate national policy responses.

Several MEPs called for investigations about the management of the crisis, in the manner of MEP Eugenia Rodriguez Palop (GUE/NGL, Spain), from Spain, who said “we’ll need to know who died, why they died” or MEP Miriam Lexmann (EPP, Slovakia) who advised that shortages, including insufficient support to the facilities, are carefully examined.

Some also openly referred to the societal attitudes that are behind the underdevelopment of Europe’s care systems. MEP Brglez (S&D, Slovenia) reflected on the weight of ageism, which the crisis has revealed clearly:

Official EP portrait of Milan Brglez

“Older people are viewed as a social burden. Together we need to do more for intergenerational solidarity to ensure the respect of the rights of older people”

Dubravka Suica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, represented the European Commission in the debate. She committed to addressing the challenges in the upcoming actions, which include the Green Paper on Ageing, the Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Conference on the Future of Europe:

Picture of European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Suica

“We will need to take a close look at long-term care indeed and I am totally in alignment with you”, she said in reference to the demands for EU action to ensure quality of care.

This debate follows a joint call from AGE, the European Disability Forum – EDF and the European Federation of Public Service Unions – EPSU to the European Parliament to investigate the situations witnessed in care homes across the EU, which received the support of 88 MEPs.

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What does the Commission do to prohibit age discrimination, asks MEP

On 12 April 2020, an MEP from the Dutch party ’50plus’ asked the European Commission how it intends to ban age discrimination. He referred to a study by the Dutch consumer’s organisation Consumentenbond finding that older drivers are paying a surcharge on their insurance premium on the basis of their age, and are sometimes denied insurance.
Mr Toine Manders quoted the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which calls for banning discrimination based on age. The Commission put forward a proposal for a directive in 2008, the Horizontal Anti-discrimination Directive, to apply this principle. However, the Directive is since blocked in the Council of the EU. Mr Manders asked the Commission what it intends to do to unblock the directive.

Read the full question for written answer by Mr Manders