Parliamentary Watch: developing senior tourism in Europe

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the importance of tourism is recognised at EU level. Article 195 of the EU Treaty indeed offers the possibility to take European or multinational actions while respecting the principle of subsidiarity and the competence of the Member States.

The Commission has given new impetus to tourism policy with a main initiative undertaken in 2010, the Communication ‘Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination a new political framework for tourism in Europe’ which has set out a new consolidated policy framework and an action plan for tourism. With 21 actions, the Commission set itself a very ambitious objective against the background of a desirable contribution to growth and employment in Europe.

The European Parliament asked the Commission to deliver a comprehensive implementation report on actions taken, including the use of financial resources, in the frame of this initiative.

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament recognised several times in its report the relevance of addressing specific needs, notably those of older persons, when developing touristic products.

It welcomed the Calypso social tourism initiative, which allows seniors, young people, people on lower incomes and people with disabilities to go on holidays outside the high season and stressed that this initiative has the potential to overcome the problem of seasonality, particularly in less well-known destinations.

It called to strengthen the ‘tourism for all’ principle which allows and empowers people, particularly those with specific needs (such as people with disabilities or reduced mobility, young people, the elderly, low-income families, and families with children), to enjoy their rights as citizens, and to make it the reference for any national, regional, local or European tourism-related action.

Last but not least, it underlined the need to place particular emphasis on the use of new technologies when developing tourism concepts for senior citizens and people with specific disabilities.

Read the full report here.

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MEPs submit a Written Declaration on access to hearing aids

What is a written declaration?

A written declaration is a text of a maximum of 200 words relating exclusively on a matter falling within the competence of the European Union.

At least 10 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from at least three political groups may, as authors, submit a written declaration by presenting a text to be signed by their colleagues. They have then three months to let it signed by a majority of the MEPs. If they succeed, the written declaration is published in the minutes and forwarded to the EU Institutions named in the text, together with the names of the signatories. Declarations that, at the end of the three month period, have not been signed by at least half the MEPs lapse. Even if successful, written declarations do not bind Parliament, that is, they cannot be considered as an act of the Parliament representing its position, but only those of its authors and signatories.

Written Declaration on access to hearing aids

Referring to the Articles 5 and 26 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and submitted by 10 MEPs, this Declaration calls on the Commission and the Council to foster cooperation and the exchange of best practices regarding the provision of state-funded access to hearing aids with a view to improving the lives of citizens suffering from hearing loss in the EU.

Read the declaration here.

Read our previous post on the Written Declaration on Alzheimer’s Disease and dignity at the end of life here.

MEPs submit Written Declarations on Alzheimer’s disease and dignity at the end of life

MEPs have recently submitted two written declarations linked to population ageing.

What is a written declaration?

A written declaration is a text of a maximum of 200 words relating exclusively on a matter falling within the competence of the European Union.

At least 10 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from at least three political groups may, as authors, submit a written declaration by presenting a text to be signed by their colleagues. They have then three months to let it signed by a majority of the MEPs. If they succeed, the written declaration is published in the minutes and forwarded to the EU Institutions named in the text, together with the names of the signatories. Declarations that, at the end of the three month period, have not been signed by at least half the MEPs lapse. Even if successful, written declarations do not bind Parliament, that is, they cannot be considered as an act of the Parliament representing its position, but only those of its authors and signatories.

Written Declaration on Alzheimer’s disease

This declaration submitted by 24 MEPs invites the European Commission and the Council to recognize Alzheimer and related diseases as a public health priority in Europe and to adopt a comprehensive strategy to address those diseases. This would include promoting the research on sustainable treatment solutions, improving the efficient provision of information and supporting carers.

Read the written declaration here.

Written Declaration on dignity at the end of life

Referring the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (art. 35) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU – art. 6(a), 9 and 168) which confer competences on the Union to coordinate or complement the actions of EU member states in the protection and improvement of public health, the signatory MEPs call on the European Commission and the Council to identify best practices across the European Union with regard to the provision of end-of-life health services and to facilitate the exchange of those practices between EU countries.

Read the written declaration here.

UN Day 2015 on the rights of older persons – MEPs call on the EU to take ambitious measures to protect the rights of older persons

On the occasion of the UN Day on the rights of older persons, Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament Intergroup on Active ageing, solidarity between generations and family issues, underline the need for the EU to launch long-awaited actions to protect the growing number of older persons from age discrimination.

Today, we mark the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP). What would I wish our seniors? I wish for our seniors to live in a Europe free of prejudice and stereotypes. We have to work to remove discriminatory measures from all walks of life. This also means educating different generations in our societies to cooperate”, called MEP Eduard Kukan, Vice-President of the Intergroup and rapporteur European Parliament’s assessment of the European Year 2012 on active ageing and intergenerational solidarity.

According to MEP Alojz Peterle, Vice-President of the Intergroup, “on the International Day of Older Persons we mark the contributions of seniors to our society, but it is also a time to examine issues that affect their lives”.We must ensure that older persons have the right to live their lives with dignity and the right to pursue independent living where possible and to access to adequate and sustainable pensions”, said MEP Marian Harkin, Vice-President of the Intergroup.

Older citizens in the EU are indeed facing increasing challenges to enjoy their human rights. The new study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) “LTC protection for older persons: A review of coverage deficits in 46 countries” highlights a serious lack of social protection – including in many EU countries – for older persons in need of long-term care, resulting in age and gender discrimination and a high risk of poverty, social exclusion and abuse in old age.

The EU has therefore the duty to use the existing instruments, such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), and to take an ambitious stand at the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing, in order to protect its senior citizens from discrimination and help them lead independent and dignified lives, as described in the EP report on the situation of fundamental rights in EU 2013 – 2014.

To strengthen the rights of older persons, two important aspects need to be implemented: full political codetermination of representatives of the older generation on all decisive levels and the priority for prevention in our health systems, which means health promotion before “reparation“, underlined MEP Heinz K. Becker, Vice-President of the Intergroup.

Moreover, MEPs stressed the importance of investing in innovative solutions and strengthening solidarity between generations, as the way to build inclusive and cohesive societies “where older people can play an important role, for example by improving the quality of life in the Community by volunteering or volunteering alongside younger people passing on skills & expertise while also learning”, Marian Harkin added.

Lambert van Nistelrooij, Coordinator and Vice-President of the Intergroup Active Ageing also underlined “the role that innovative technology plays in contributing to the creation of more age-inclusive environments. We have to close the digital divide. In the ageing society there are opportunities for “design for all” products and services for all ages. There is also a role for public authorities, the cities and regions to foster the full rights of older persons”.

The Vice-Presidents of the Intergroup in charge of active ageing therefore welcome the recent adoption of the EP report on the implementation of the European Year 2012 on Active ageing and solidarity between Generations, and commit to work on strengthening older people’s rights in EU actions, the delivery of an ambitious and inclusive Silver Economy strategy, the support to the upcoming Covenant on demographic change, and the promotion of good practices in the field of intergenerational solidarity.

I also wish our seniors to live their lives to the full extend, in an environment conducive to their needs. Our older generation, with their life experience, is an important added value to the European society. And it should be treated as such“, Eduard Kukan concluded.

Parliamentary Watch: looking at the implementation of the European Year 2012 on active ageing and solidarity between generations

The very first European Year, in 1983, was dedicated to small business (“SMEs”) and craft industry. Every year since, the EU has chosen a specific subject to encourage debate and dialogue within and between European countries. 2012 was dedicated to active ageing and solidarity between generations. AGE Platform Europe coordinated then the stakeholders’ coalition and was an active actor of the Year. Three years later, the European Parliament worked on the implementation report and adopted an own report on the Year’s outcomes and follow-up.

What is there for older persons?

The Parliament welcomes that the Year has been the occasion to underline that older people are not a burden on the economy and society, but rather – through their experience, their achievements and their knowledge – an asset.

In the report, MEPs consider it very important that the initiatives launched as part of EY 2012 are followed up and transformed into a strong political commitment followed by concrete action to ensure social inclusion, active participation and the well-being of all generations, and to combat and prevent discrimination in all spheres of life.

If MEPs underline the challenge of unemployment among older workers, they also reject the consideration of active ageing policies solely as an instrument to maintain the employability of older workers, but rather as the process of optimising opportunities for health and for participation in society in order to ensure that people can retain a good standard of living and quality of life as they age.

Moreover, they urge the Commission and Member States to:

  • develop and maintain people-oriented and demand-driven public support, universal assistance and care services
  • promote and strengthen high-quality public infrastructure for older persons (homes, day centres and home support), with the latter being active participants rather than passive recipients of the initiatives in which they take part
  • adopt a European strategy on dementia
  • adopt an Action Plan on elder abuse
  • offer opportunities for life-long learning and promote intergenerational training and transfer of knowledge at work
  • ensure sustainability of public pension schemes and to guarantee individual and adequate pension income and rights for all to ensure a dignified life in old age – including those who have taken justified career breaks
  • develop an inclusive Digital Single Market strategy by ensuring that accessibility is mainstreamed throughout the strategy and linked with the promotion of the ‘silver economy’ in Europe
  • release the long-awaited European Accessibility Act to ensure that transport, housing and ICT-based products and services, are accessible to older persons
  • improve the accessibility and interoperability of transport systems

The Parliament also supports the work done at UN level on the rights of older persons, the upcoming Covenant on demographic change, WHO work on age-friendly environments and the Active Ageing index.

Furthermore, MEPs stress that reliable statistics on the situation of older people and on demographic change are needed to develop better targeted and effective active ageing strategies and called on the Commission to ensure comprehensive high-quality data collection on the societal status of older people, their health, rights and standard of living.

Last but not least, the report lists different sources of European funding usable in the field of active ageing and calls on Member States to use them to follow-up on the momentum created by the Year.

To read the full report, click here.

Parliamentary Watch: Acknowledging the situation of the fundamental rights of older persons in the EU

Each year, the European Commission publishes a report on the Application of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. MEPs then work on the EC report and adopt a common position on the report’s outcomes, recalling their priorities and suggestions areas of action, for example in the field of freedom, security, justice, citizenship, equality and non-discrimination (Roma, LGBTI, women, persons with disabilities, etc.).  MEPs just adopted their opinion on the EC report for the years 2013-2014.

What is there for older persons?

In its report, the Parliament calls on the European Union and Member States to step up their efforts to combat discrimination and protect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, and to promote measures to enhance gender equality, the rights of the child, the rights of older persons, the rights of persons with disabilities, and the rights of LGBTI persons and persons belonging to national minorities.

Moreover, MEPs dedicated a whole section of the report on age discrimination. The Parliament deplores there the fact that many older people face discrimination and violations of their fundamental rights every day, in particular in access to adequate income, employment and healthcare and to necessary goods and services, and calls on the Commission to develop a Strategy on Demographic Change to put into effect Article 25 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The EP report also tackles the issue of elder abuse, recognising that maltreatment, neglect and abuse of older people is widespread in the Member States, and underlines the greater risk of poverty older persons face, in particular among older women.

Last but not least, the Parliament calls on the Commission to adopt in the near future and in close cooperation with the other institutions and civil society organisations an internal strategy on fundamental rights to properly enforce the EU Charter.

To read the full report, click here.

Parliamentary Watch: Tackling age discrimination in guidelines for Member States’ employment policies

The European employment strategy (ESS) was introduced in 1992 by the Treaty of the European Union and since then has been the cornerstone of the EU’s employment policy. Its main aim is the creation of more and better jobs throughout the EU. It now constitutes part of the Europe 2020 growth strategy and it is implemented through the European semester. One of the implementation steps of the EES is the adoption of employment guidelines, i.e. common priorities and targets for employment policies. They are proposed by the Commission, agreed by national governments and adopted by the EU Council. The European Parliament adopted its position on the guidelines on 8 July 2015.

What is there for older workers?

While the Council asked to reduce barriers to labour market participation, especially for women, older workers, young people, the disabled and legal migrants, the Parliament expressly referred to the need to reduce discrimination on the labour market and in access to labour market. This makes the text much stronger and clearer, notably on age discrimination. MEPs also added the need to prevent the exclusion of workers with breaks in their career due to family responsibilities, such as informal care.

Moreover, the Parliament called on Member States to implement active ageing strategies to enable healthy working up to the real retirement age.  On retirement, the Council suggested to link statutory retirement ages to life expectancy, increase effective retirement ages and develop complementary retirement savings. MEPs amended these proposals to recall the importance of the 3 pillars and that reforms of the pension systems should also reflect labour market trends, birth rate, demographic situation, health and wealth situation, working conditions and the economic dependency ratio. They concluding by adding that the best way to tackle ageing is to increase the overall employment rate, building on social investments in active ageing.

Read the full report here.