04 Ιανουαρίου 2011
Speech of Luca Jahier :
THE DEMOGRAPHIC PROBLEM: IMPLICATIONS & POLICIES
Larnaca (Cyprus) (19 February 2011)
It is a pleasure for the EESC to be actively involved in this important conference on a topic on which the Committee has been, and currently is, very active and interested!
I have been closely following, family policies, as a member of the Committee and as Rapporteur of an opinion on family, three years ago! I am now very pleased to be here as a President of the Group III, on behalf of the President of the Committee, and confirming thus our interest.
It is important to remind that family is back on the EU agenda, thanks especially to the Hungarian Presidency, and to the following Presidency, the Polish one!
The Hungarian Presidency has asked us to draw up an exploratory opinion on The role of family policy in the demographic change with a view to sharing best practice among the Member States, on which we are currently working. As part of the drafting process, we are organising a conference at the EESC building on 21 March in order to explore which policies are better able to meet families' needs and foster work-life balance against the backdrop of the demographic challenges ahead, and how to improve the sharing of best practices among Member States.
As this conference will be held only few days before the thematic week organised by the Hungarian Presidency on Europe for families, Families for Europe, we will seize the opportunity to launch this important event in Brussels, in the presence of a representative of the Hungarian presidency and many stakeholders, including civil society organisations and MEPs.
I was mentioning earlier the Polish Presidency: they have asked as well an exploratory opinion on the consequences of demographic changes on the labour market, yet another important side of the demographic debate.
Just few months ago, we had the chance and the pleasure to intervene in the important European Family Conference, organised by COFACE under the auspices and the support of the Belgian Presidency of the EU. I wish to seize this opportunity to express our full support to the call made during the conference to proclaim 2014 as the European Year of Families. 2014 is also the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family and would be a tangible sign of the EU institutions engagement to support family.
However, 2014 is far and we can not wait till there to work for the family in Europe and in that sense, it is really a fortunate coincidence that the two next Presidencies of the EU consider family and family policies as one of their priorities.
As you can see, our interest is very concrete, holistic and steady and I wish now to briefly mention our positions on family.
The EESC actually expressed itself in many of its opinions on the several facets related to family, such us children rights, youth, ageing, reconciliation between personal and professional life, role of immigration in the demographic context, etc. but it above all adopted two very important opinions focussed explicitly on family:
-Exploratory opinion requested by the German Presidency on: "The family and demographic change which contributed to the launch of the European Alliance of Families;
-an opinion on Commission communication: "Promoting solidarity between the generations", for both of which, I was rapporteur.
Theses opinions were highly appreciated by Council of Ministers, European Parliament and by civil society organisations, with which the EESC notably organised an important conference in 2008 and with which it maintains regular contact.
We think that the first thing to do is to give tangible recognition to the practical and substantial contribution that families continue to make to our societies and to the care of people at every stage of their life. In this light, account should also be taken of the social and economic utility and of the possible and untenable increase in costs, especially for welfare services, if the family is not sufficiently supported and encouraged in performing its role. To this end we have proposed, in our opinions, several measures and policies, but I will not mention them today, for time constraints, inviting those of you who are interested to read our opinions which you'll find in our site.
Finally, I only wish to briefly come back to the opinion we are currently drafting, in which, besides examining the different models and experiences there are in Europe, we try to find out ways and tools to improve cooperation and exchange of best practices among Member States. This can be achieved notably by reinforcing and giving more means to the European Alliance for Families, on one side, and by rationalising and better coordinating all the different projects, tools and bodies today already existing. More concrete elements will be studied in our opinion.
In conclusion, I am sure this will be a fruitful conference that will enrich and deepen the debate on how to better support this fundamental element of our society.