Issue 50: November/December 2001
In this Issue:
· EU Interministerial Meeting on Children
· Children and EU Development Policy
· EU asylum and children
· Child Soldiers
· New Inter-Governmental Conference Convention
· World Trade Organisation
· Youth White Paper
· Second World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
Welcome to the November/December issue of the Save the Children Brussels Office Newsletter which provides information on the activities of the Brussels office as well as on the latest EU policy developments.
The Newsletter is written by Jeannette Delgado Holdsworth (Assistant European Officer) and Diana Sutton (European Officer). The Newsletter is free and available in English and French and can be received by E-mail or by post. Articles can be reproduced provided the source is acknowledged.
Please distribute this newsletter widely within your organisation and let Jeannette Delgado Holdsworth know if you would like to be placed on the mailing list (tel. + 32 2 512 7851, fax + 32 2 513 4903, E-mail: email@example.com or on our website at: www.savethechildren.net/brussels
This month, for the second time ever, EU Ministers working on children met in Brussels under the Belgian Presidency to discuss children’s rights. Seven countries in all sent Ministers, others sent high level officials. Amongst the issues discussed were the UN Special Session on Children, mainstreaming children’s rights within the EU, the need for linking up Observatories on Children’s Rights, and young people’s participation. Speakers included Carole Bellamy (Director General - UNICEF), Jean-Marc Nollet, Minister for Childhood of the French-speaking Community of Belgium, Eugene Verhellen (Children’s Rights Centre – University of Ghent) and Diana Sutton (Save the Children – European officer).
The Conclusions from the European Meeting of Children’s Ministers included the following: -
· The introduction of mainstreaming the rights of the child in all policies of the Union.
· Without creating a new competence for childhood within the European Union, it appears that taking better consideration of the Rights of the Child should help Europe to come closer to its citizens.
· In order to assure the respect of the child’s best interest in the decision-making process of the EU, (Ministers) request the European Commission to ensure continuous follow up.
· The development, on a voluntary basis, of a European network of study centres for children's rights and policies.
· That the European authorities (Council, Commission, and Parliament) study the effective participation of children in EU decision making processes.
Jean Marc Nollet, Minister for Childhood for the French Speaking Community of Belgium stated “Even if the Community has no powers in relation to children, it is important to introduce a transversal concern for children in all the policies of the Union that concern them, even partially. The inter-governmental Conference in 2004 may give us the opportunity to introduce such a concern – such a perspective – into the Treaties. The Charter of Fundamental Rights could, if it were incorporated into the documents that form the foundation of the Union, form a "fast track" for the formal inclusion of a transversal perspective that would guarantee more rights for children. I will conclude by saying that, since it concerns the future of Europe, I believe that the issue of children is a key issue. How can we talk about the European identity without mentioning children? How can we bring Europe closer to the people without involving children in its destiny?”
Diana Sutton, Save the Children’s European officer was invited to give a speech to this meeting on behalf of the Euronet network. Her speech focused on young people’s participation and the need for a legal base to promote children’s rights in the EU Treaty. She stressed to those member states that were anxious about a new EU competence, that a legal base would promote children’s rights within existing EU legal competencies – it would not introduce a new competence. Copies of speeches and conclusions are available on request from the Brussels office by sending an e-mail to Jeannette Delgado Holdsworth – Assistant European officer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Children and EU Development Policy
Save the Children made a presentation last month at the ACP-EU Joint Assembly workshop on children. The workshop, convened by Mme Carlotti MEP looked at child trafficking, sexual exploitation and child asylum seekers and principally focused on the situation of children within Europe. Save the Children stressed that whilst children in the European region had higher standards of living, education and health, universal respect for the rights of the Child and implementation of the Convention was far from a reality in most member states. Children faced new problems, namely from the internet and child trafficking and certain children, especially disabled children, refugee children and Roma children faced extreme discrimination. For further information about the results of the workshop and copies of speeches, contact Mme Carlotti MEP's office in the European Parliament, Tel: + 32 2 284 57 89.
EU asylum and children
Save the Children continues to work with the Commission and the European Parliament as well as other NGOs to ensure that the needs of children are integrated into of EU asylum policy initiatives where appropriate.
Save the Children has produced a response to the new Directive on Complementary Protection. The response welcomes for the first time in an EU text a reference to child specific forms of persecution. Children experience forms of persecution which are specific to their status as a child, in particular recruitment into armies as child soldiers and harmful and exploitative labour. The draft Directive also contains a welcome Article on Unaccompanied (or separated) children. Save the Children believes that this should be strengthened by the inclusion of a clause referring to not detaining children for immigration reasons. The full text of the Save the Children response is available on our website at: www.savethechildren.net/brussels or it can be obtained from Jeannette Delgado Holdsworth at the Brussels office.
Reception Conditions Directive: Member States are in disagreement over three issues: scope of application, access to labour market and freedom of movement (Germany is against all three). The On access to the labour market issue, France and Ireland are against the proposals, whilst Germany is against the six months. On the scope of application, Spain is against and wants to introduce general provisions such reception conditions only guaranteed in the first instance but not during the appeal stage. Member States are discussing whether the scope of application should apply at all. The process seems to be blocked and there is some doubt as to whether the Directive will be adopted. Save the Children issued a letter to the JHA Council stating that the Directive should not introduce sanctions for families that do not send their children to school where there is no such sanction for national children and also asking for no detention measures.
Dublin II: The first reading of the draft has taken place. The discussion on the Directive will resume under the Spanish Presidency as this has been singled out as one of their priorities. Member States are concerned about definition of family members, scope of application of asylum seekers, unaccompanied children and their transfer to meet family members in another Member State and how to guarantee that the family members have the moral and financial responsibility for the children. Member States are opposed to family members being reunited during the asylum procedures (UK, Germany, Ireland and Austria). This issue will be discussed at the horizontal level. Save the Children is preparing comments on the Directive which will be available shortly.
Family reunification: There has not been any progress on the directive because of continued opposition by Germany and Austria to the age of children and the definition of the family. Sweden's opposition to suggestions by the Belgian Presidency was significant in stopping the directive from being watered down. All of the documents can be downloaded from:
EU member States have been assessing the progress made in the area of justice and home affairs since the Tampere Summit in 1999 which the Belgian Presidency has condensed into a report. The report shows that not enough has been achieved in forging a common asylum and immigration policy.
During a conference on Child Soldiers financed by ECHO in Brussels to exchange good practice on the rehabilitation of child soldiers, Commissioner Nielson called on governments and armed groups to stop recruiting children under the age of 18. He also called for concrete actions to relieve the plight of war-affected children. He stated that it was essential for governments to enforce existing laws and to ratify outstanding international agreements such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as soon as possible.
The book “Children Not Soldiers” was launched during the conference. Sarah Uppard from Save the Children UK presented the book and a former child soldier gave a testimony. Diana Sutton from Save the Children presented conclusions. One of the key messages from the conference is the need to establish viable alternatives to recruitment and to prevent re-recruitment. As the example shows, for many children the army is the best chance of survival. A young 15-year-old had given up prostitution to join the army because she was scared of getting AIDS. She said she couldn’t go back to her village because se was forced to leave when a neighbour accused her of witchcraft. “And anyway my parents had no food for me. The army was a hard life because I was beaten. But I did not ask to leave. If not prostitution, what am I to do? I will have to go into the army again.”
Further conclusions included the need to link relief, rehabilitation and development in EU policy and ensuring a child focus in the EU’s development and humanitarian aid policy and programmes. At present the EU, unlike member states is not obliged to respect the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As a result there is no obligation on it to ensure that its development aid is child focused. The EP has agreed a budgetline to mainstream children’s rights into all its development policies – this is an opportunity for the EU to redress this imbalance. Finally EU member states were urged to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to set up monitoring mechanisms. At present no EU member state has ratified the Optional Protocol on the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the participation of children in armies.
"Children Not Soldiers" can be ordered from Save the Children UK, 17 Grove Lane, London SE5 8RD, UK. Tel: + 44 20 7703 5400, fax: + 44 20 7716 2101 or visit their website at: www.savethechildren.org.uk
New Inter-Governmental Conference Convention
EU Foreign Affairs Ministers debated the future of Europe at an informal meeting in November. During the debate, they agreed that a Convention to prepare the next Inter Governmental Conference in 2004 was needed. The Convention would be made up of representatives from the Member States, Parliamentary members, Commission officials and representatives from the candidate countries. Civil society will also be involved through a parallel process of discussion and consultations. The new Treaty is expected to be adopted in December 2003 in time for the European Parliament elections in 2004. The European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee recommended that the composition of Convention must reflect the full range of European political opinion and that it must be free to decide how to organise its work. Save the Children together with Euronet will be campaigning for an article on Children to be included in the new Treaty.
World Trade Organisation
The World Trade Organisation has agreed to launch a new programme of trade liberalisation at their meeting in Doha. The new round is to be called Doha Development Round. The agreement made concessions to developing countries in areas such as increased trade in agriculture and industrial products as well as clarification on patent rules. The Doha meeting published three texts on the work programme, implementation issues and the clarification of patent rights waiver when importing essential medicines to fight health crisis. Some NGOs have welcomed the freedom granted to countries to shop around around for the best price for medicines.
Save the Children has published a report entitled "The Wrong Model - GATS, trade liberalisation and children's rights to health". The report examines the global policy context behind the child health crisis. It looks in particular at the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) and the World Trade Organisation's drive to increase international trade in services such as water and health care. Save the Children suggests that this is the wrong model to follow if countries want to develop strong public health systems for all their people. It concludes that the market disciplines included within GATS undermine national efforts to develop public health systems, and calls for the Agreement to be revised. For more information contact Save the Children Publications, 17 Grove Lane, London, SE5 8RD, UK. Tel: + 44 20 7703 54 00, fax: + 44 20 7708 25 08 or visit their website at: www.savethechildren.org.uk
Youth White Paper
The White Paper on youth policy has been published by the Commission. The White Paper sugests a new framework for European cooperation which would include two aspects: an open method of coordination in the specific field of youth to be applied and to take better account of the youth dimension in other policy initiatives. The Commission has outlined three areas for priority in the White Paper:
· Participation for young people to be developed in the first instance in the local community and extended to the regions, the national level and finally to the European level.
· Information provided to young people is seen as going hand in hand with participation. The Member States have been given the responsibility to inform young people on what is going on at the European level.
· Voluntary service as a form of social participation and education experience.
The White Paper states that Ministers responsible for youth should ensure that youth-related concerns are taken into account in policies such as employment, education, social integration, racism and xenophobia, immigration and health.
The Belgian Presidency wants to include a paragraph on youth in the Laeken declaration and for a strong political follow up to the White Paper. The paragraph to be agreed is to be based on the conclusions of the Education and Youth Council which will take place at the end of November. The Presidency hopes that this will create the input for further development of a common European agenda on youth policy based on common objectives resulting in the developing of action plans.
The Presidency is also organising a conference in Ghent during which the White Paper will be presented to the participants. It will discuss how the paper's policy ideas can be translated into concrete measures and action plans that can be taken up by the Spanish Presidency. A group of young people will be invited to the conference in order to prepare a Youth Statement to be submitted to the Youth Council. More information on the Presidency's priorities on youth can be found at: www.eu2001jeugd.be
The Commission has published the progress report on the candidate countries for 2001. The progress reports identify the areas where further efforts are most needed. The reports conclude that all negotiating countries continued to fulfil the political criteria, and that the overall record in strengthening democratic institutions, in respecting the rule of law and in protecting human rights had improved since the previous year. However, the Commission drew attention to the need to accelerate the reform or reinforcement of the judiciary, and to tackle the problem of corruption; it called for vigorous measures in fighting the growing problem of trafficking in women and children, and, emphasised the need for sustained efforts to improve the situation of the Roma (see our article on Roma below).
In all countries with sizeable Roma communities, national action plans are now in place to tackle discrimination, which remains widespread, and improve living conditions that continue to be extremely difficult. In most cases implementation of these action plans is underway and, in some countries, national budgetary resources have been reinforced.
In previous years, the Commission report on Romania underlined the problem of childcare institutions in the country. The Romanian authorities have now taken a number of legislative, administrative and financial measures to improve the situation. The report calls for these efforts to continue, in order to ensure tangible and long-lasting improvement in the living conditions of the children and families concerned, to prevent abuses and to address the problem of street children.
The trend in trafficking in women and children has been confirmed this year. Several candidate countries remained countries of origin, transit and destination, and there are no signs that the problem is abating. The reports can be downloaded from the following website: http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/index.htm
Second World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of children
Since the First World Congress against the commercial sexual exploitation of children took place in 1996, there a lot of progress has been achieved removing children from exploitation and their reintegration into society. The progress achieved includes: an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography has been adopted and opened for signatures. The ILO Convention 182 on the worst form of child labour was adopted in 1999. Thirty-four countries have developed National Action Plans against commercial sexual exploitation of children and twenty-six more are in the process of developing plans. Despite this progress, the number of children who become victims of sexual exploitation is still increasing.
The Government of Japan together with UNICEF, ECPAT and the NGO Group for the Convention of the Rights of the Child are organising this second working congress from the 17 to 20 December 2001. The objectives of the meeting are to identify main problem areas and/or gaps in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children; to enhance political commitment to the implementation of the Agenda for Action adopted at the First World Congress; to review the progress in the implementation of the Agenda for Action; to share expertise and good practices; and, to strengthen the follow-up process of the World Congress. For more information visit their website at: http://mofa.go.jp.mofaj or http://www.expat.net Save the Children will be represented at the conference. For more information contact Ola Fiorin at Save the Children Sweden at email@example.com
Save the Children is asking European governments to improve education for Gypsies, to guarantee access to education, recognise inequalities and commit to improvements with serious funding and monitoring. Gypsies are Europe's largest ethnic minority - estimated at 8 million. Improved education is the best way to improve their welfare and rights, benefit wider society and improve the chances of some of the countries joining the EU.
The report "Denied a Future?" finds that Gypsies are effectively denied an education across Europe. In Central and Eastern Europe, Roma are too often channeled into schools for the mentally disabled. In the Balkans, many thousands have been uprooted and disconnected from education altogether. And in the EU, about 50% simply do not attend school. Save the Children found practical
barriers rooted in poverty, discrimination, language problems and low expectations. Many Gypsies would take up education if it was seen to be more useful to them.
The study found that wide-ranging legislation and rights do exist for Gypsies. But most of these are ignored. All European governments have signed treaties that provide for Roma education. The
political will and
anti-discrimnation legislation are also needed to implement these treaties.
There are, however, some hopeful signs. Hundreds of highly successful and innovative NGO initiatives for Gypsies have been identified. Governments have made commitments but do not follow these through with monitoring and therefore do not get results. Despite all these barriers, a young body of articulate Gypsies is emerging in Europe to advocate for their own rights.
Save the Children will use the research to measure future efforts by governments on education for Gypsies. The study is the most comprehensive to date on this problematic issue, and offers a serious basis for future evaluation of outcomes, progress or regression. For more information contact: Andrew Lawday, Media Officer, Save the Children, Tel: +44 (0)20 7716 2280, Fax: +44 (0)20 7716 7615. E-mail: A.Lawday@SCFUK.ORG.UK
Call for Proposals
The Commission has published a call for proposals for awareness actions under its Action plan on promoting safer use of the Internet. The Action plan is part of a set of policies at EU level to deal with illegal and harmful content on the Internet and to provide funding for projects covering hotlines for users to report illegal content, improved tools for parental control of children's use of Internet and measures to increase awareness of safer use of the Internet. The budget for the call for proposals is EUR 4,25 million. The deadline for submitting projects is 31 January 2002. For more information contact the European Commission, DG for the Information Society Safer Internet Action Plan, Jean Monnet Building, Office EUFO 1267, Rue Alcide de Gasperi, L-2920 Luxembourg.
"The Örebro Appeal - Children's rights in Europe a local, national and European Responsibility" is the report of the same named conference which took place in May in Sweden. The conference adopted an Appeal from the City and County Council of Örebro addressed to all local and regional authorities across Europe challenging them to take up their responsibility for the full realisation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. For copies of the report contact City of Örebro, Stadskansliet, Box 30000, SE-701 35 Örebro. Tel: + 46 19 21 15 82 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The report can also be downloaded from: www.children2001.org
23 January 2002 Brussels
EURONET, the European Children's Network, is organising a Conference at the European Parliament in Brussels (Eastman Building) entitled, INCLUDING CHILDREN?. During the conference EURONET will launch its Report “Developing a Coherent Approach to Child Poverty and Social Exclusion Across Europe.” The report is a comprehensive survey to assess the impact of the social trends affecting children’s lives across the EU.
The report first examines Member State’s good policy and practice and then assesses the extent to which the EU has met its objectives. The conclusions suggest policy recommendations to the EU and to Member States on European targets on child poverty and social exclusion. The presentation of the Report will be followed by the reactions of representatives from the European Parliament, the Commission and the Belgium and Spanish Governments.
For more information contact Carolina Santrich, Euronet - the European Children's Network, Rue Montoyer 39, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. Tel: + 32 2 512 45 00, fax: + 32 2 513 49 03 or E-mail: email@example.com