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 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).

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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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)

AGE joins NGO call for better promotion of gender equality, accessibility and non-discrimination in EU funds

AGE joined a coalition of NGO’s to call upon EU decision-makers to uphold the issues of equality between women and men, accessibility for persons with disabilities and non-discrimination in the proposal for the Common Provisions Regulation 2021-2027 and in the Funds specific regulations.

In the current funding period 2014-2020, the EU structural and investment funds – including the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund – are covered by a common regulation that explicitly featured non-discrimination as a horizontal principle of the funds. This horizontal principle does not appear again in the European Commission draft regulation for the 2021-2027 funding period. In a common press statement, the 10 members of the coalition call for the restitution of a horizontal principle on non-discrimination in European funds, recalling EU’s obligations to promote equality between women and men and combat all forms of discriminations under the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities
The statement also points out the important role played by the Common Provisions Regulations, in particular at a time where Europe is confronted with rising extremism, radicalism and inequalities.
    

Read our full joint statement here

AGE publishes questions to candidate Commissioners

With the upcoming hearings of the candidate Commissioners, we are at a key moment to make sure that the EU addresses the challenges posed by the ageing of the population. To do so, we need clear commitments from the future College of Commissioners.

AGE has therefore drafted a series of recommendations and questions to the candidate Commissioners. They are dealing with a broad range of issues of concern for older Europeans, e.g. fundamental rights, economic reforms, social protection systems, transport, tourism, consumers’ protection, accessibility, health, research.

AGE recommendations and questions have been grouped according to EP Committees’ competences:

We hope that the candidate Commissioners will take position on the challenges AGE is raising during the hearings at the European Parliament in September.

Dear Mr Juncker, congratulations with your election. We await with great impatience the appointment of the Commissioner in charge of the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

 

AGE Platform Europe congratulates Mr Juncker for his election as President of the European Commission. Older Europeans took note with great interest of his commitment to appoint a Commissioner in charge of the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and now hope this person will take forward an ambitious agenda to protect EU citizens’ rights, regardless of their age.

Today, the European Parliament elected Mr Juncker for a 5 year term as President of the European Commission with a comfortable majority. He now has few days to finalise his list of portfolios to constitute the new Commission. This is a key moment to ensure that Mr Juncker’s commitments are taken forward by the next College of Commissioners.

AGE welcomes the promise to appoint a Commissioner in charge of the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We believe such position will help the EU to adopt a coherent and coordinated approach to address the situation of fundamental rights in all EU Member States.

EU’s approach to the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights has been so far on an ad hoc and fragmented basis and there is incoherence between how rights are addressed in EU’s internal and external action, which entails important disparities about how EU citizens can access their rights.

We therefore hope that the new Commissioner will take concrete steps to render the interventions of the EU institutions and the Member States in the area of fundamental rights more structured, better coordinated, effective and accountable.We further expect a close consultation and involvement of civil society to shape EU’s priorities in the area of fundamental rights.

Age discrimination is a key aspect here. Older Europeans are discriminated against in many areas of their lives, including access to employment and health, age limits in financial services and insurance products, and this has to stop if we want to build a Europe based on equality, fairness and inclusion.

Such Commissioner will have to play a crucial role to push as soon as possible the EU Council to adopt the long-awaited draft directive on equal treatment, as Mr Juncker promised this morning at the European Parliament. This would give the EU the relevant tools to fight against discrimination in all areas of its citizens’ lives and would close the existing gap in the implementation of article 25 of the EU Charter.

We also call Mr Juncker to adopt an EU Strategy on Demographic change to make sure that challenges posed by the ageing of the population will be addressed adequately and in a coordinated way in the coming years.

As the largest network representing older people in Europe, we remain committed to closely collaborate with the new President and future College of Commissioners to make the EU more age-friendly.

 

Useful links:

AGE Manifesto for the European Elections 2014 (here)

AGE proposals for questions to the candidate President of the European Commission (here)

AGE recommendations to the new EU leaders (here)

Dear Mr. Juncker, Europe is ageing fast and strong political action is needed to secure a sustainable and fair future for all generations

 

Ahead of the election of the President of the European Commission tomorrow in Strasbourg, AGE Platform Europe calls on MEPs to check Mr. Juncker’s commitments to tackle positively population ageing. Demographic change, if addressed adequately by EU leaders, is a key opportunity to implement innovative solutions that will make Europe a better place to work and live and help the EU create new jobs and find sustainable solutions for our ageing population.

In 2012, there were 190 million people aged 50 years and over in the EU, up from 178 million five years previously, according to Eurofound. Huge impacts on Member States’ social security systems are expected in the coming years.

Demographic and climate changes are two major challenges facing Europe. They are also the two main areas where huge opportunities for economic growth, innovation and social justice can be developed in the coming decade if there is political will behind.

The next President of the European Commission will have a key role to play to reinforce the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy to ensure fair and sustainable growth and prosperity of European citizens at every stage of life. But for the moment the EU is lacking a coordinated approach to demographic change.

AGE calls on EU leaders to adopt an EU Strategy on Demographic Change to help coordinate and build synergies between EU policies on which demographic change have an impact. This includes the social dimension of the European Semester, the situation of fundamental rights, the realisation of EU citizens’ rights in the internal market and the implementation of the Structural funds.

In this framework, a EU Strategy on Demographic Change should become a main vector for economic growth and help EU Member States and regions adapt to the needs of their rapidly ageing populations in ways that are sustainable and fair to all generations and ensure equality between men and women. In other words, it will help create an Age-Friendly European Union.

Last week, we welcomed Mr Juncker’s recognition of the unfair social consequences of austerity measures and will carefully monitor his commitment to ensure social justice during this new term. Social assessments of reforms are key tools here to guarantee adequacy and sustainability of social security systems for all generations, regardless of their age and income.

The EU must also remain at the forefront in terms of protection of fundamental rights. This includes fighting against any form of age discrimination and we call on MEPs to question Mr Juncker on his willingness to develop all necessary tools to protect older persons’ rights in Europe, including via relaunching the stalled discussions on the draft directive on equal treatment outside employment.

AGE calls on MEPs to ask the right questions tomorrow in Strasbourg and invites them to read our proposals for questions here. These questions are backed by the European Disability Forum, the European Anti-Poverty Network, the European Women’s Lobby and the European Public Health Alliance.

 

Useful links:

AGE Manifesto for the European Elections 2014 (here)

AGE proposals for questions to the candidate President of the European Commission (here)

AGE recommendations to the new EU leaders (here)