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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MEPs launch a group for Solidarity between Generations in responding to COVID

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that Solidarity between Generations is more needed than ever. MEPs from four political groups launched an interest group on Solidarity between Generations. Lack of resources and preparedness have put the lives of many vulnerable citizens at risk, including many older persons. Families had to and are still stepping in to provide care as schools and long-term care services were closed. These developments emphasize the need for addressing ageing and demographic change in a way that upholds European principles such as human rights, equality and solidarity between generations.

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