19 April 2019 marks the end of the term for the European Parliament. In just over a month, in a direct vote on 23-26 May, EU citizens will elect the new House. It will be the task of the future European Parliamentarians to finish negotiations on the next EU budget for the period of 2021-2027 with the EU Member States. The outgoing European Parliament played an important role in shaping the future EU budget. Several votes took place on EU funding regulations for 2021-2027 at the March plenary session. The reports of the European Parliament for various funding instruments will be taken into negotiations between all three EU institutions in autumn 2019. We acknowledge this important milestone delivered by the 2014-2019 European Parliament and take stock of the negotiations on the post-2020 EU Budget before the current Parliament ends its legislative work.
Over the past year, Eurochild has been working closely with the European Commission and the European Parliament to make the rights of all children in Europe prioritized in the next seven-year Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Through coalitions, including coordination of the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign, the focus was to ensure that funding regulations for EU structural funds in 2021-2027, including the European Social Fund (ESF+), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) as well as Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) and Instrument of Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) III address the issues of child poverty, social exclusion and the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care (also known as deinstitutionalisation).
Europchild welcomed the fact 2021-2027 funding regulations for the ESF+ have recognized both child poverty and the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care as a cross-cutting issue. Moreover, the European Parliament took this commitment a step further by introducing the Child Guarantee scheme under which 5% of ESF+ (a dedicated budget of 5,9 billion euro) will be allocated to tackle child poverty and social exclusion across the EU.
The proposed regulations of the European Commission on ERDF in 2021-2027 MFF did not reflect measures to protect the rights of children, including those who have been unnecessarily deprived of caring families and communities. Considering that strengthening of child protection systems and deinstitutionalisation have been prioritized in the current 2014-2020 ERDF regulation, Eurochild called for the proposed ERDF regulation to follow the same logic and rules in the next funding period and to continue the promotion of transition from institutional to family- and community-based care.
ERDF investments have the potential to support the development of community-based care and support services to prevent family breakdown and separation of children from their families across EU Member States. Eurochild was pleased that the European Parliament reintroduced deinstitutionalisation as the investment priority in the 2021-2027 ERDF regulations under Article 2 on specific objectives. They also welcomed the European Parliament’s position on excluding the development of institutional care settings with ERDF and Cohesion Fund under Article 6 as we witness that ERDF 2014–2020 resources have not always been efficiently used to develop local resources, improve quality of community-based services and reduce the need for institutional care.
Together with Save the Children and UNICEF, Eurochild called for the Asylum and Migration Fund (AMF) to prioritise the rights of the child in the next EU Budget. The European Parliament championed the rights of children in migration by ensuring this fund supports services both in reception and during their integration in the receiving Member States and third countries. The European Parliament re-introduced the term unaccompanied minor and proposed that AMF is used in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the principle of the best interest of the child. In addition, the European Parliament introduced investment measures to support services for children, training of officials working with children and effective alternatives to both detention and institutional care. The Partnership Principle, ensuring that civil society and international non-governmental organizations can participate in the design and implementation of the EU-funded programmes, has also been re-introduced thanks to the efforts of the European Parliament.
The European Commission’s proposal on the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) in 2021-2027 MFF has been of great importance. Under the proposed regulation for CPR, the enabling condition 4.3 calls for a national strategic policy framework on poverty reduction and social inclusion in the EU Member States, that amongst others, includes the transition from institutional to community-based care as a pre-requisite to fulfilling this enabling condition. Eurochild welcomed the fact European Parliament advanced the European Commission’s proposal by specifying in the recitals that funds under the CPR should be used in line with the UNCRC and promote deinstitutionalisation reforms. Furthermore, the European Parliament strengthened the article on Partnership Principle that promotes meaningful participation of civil society and service users in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the EU-funded programmes. In addition, in line with the ESF+, 2% of the funds have been specifically earmarked for capacity building of civil society.
Lastly, through the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign and in partnership with other child rights organisations, Eurochild called for strengthened regulations of IPA III. Given that this instrument supports structural reforms in countries from the pre-accession region, it is important that they promote human rights to the same extent as EU internal funds. Considering that countries from the enlargement region have a high prevalence of children in institutional settings, Eurochild called for the transition from institutional to family- and community-based care to be reflected in the IPA III regulations, specifically under the thematic priorities. Eurochild was pleased to see that the European Parliament included deinstitutionalisation in the Instrument of Pre-accession Assistance III proposal, as well as that the European Parliament introduced an article on Inclusive Partnership, in line with the internal funding instruments and as well as the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). This will ensure that IPA III will be allocated and used in priorities that both national authorities and civil society consider important for each country.
Eurochild acknowledges the role of the 2014-2019 European Parliament in championing the rights of Europe’s children through the post-2020 EU budget. It is of utmost importance for the next Parliament to carry on the legacy and to ensure that realisation of common values and objectives, such as respect for human rights, poverty reduction or social exclusion are reflected in the final stage of negotiations on EU budget 2021-2027.
Eurochild calls on the Council of the European Union to support these efforts and to ensure that all children across the EU and in third countries enjoy the same rights. The EU has the opportunity and means to give millions of children access to a better life – not only across the EU but in all countries where EU funds reach children. This, in turn, will contribute towards a more equal, inclusive and prosperous society in the long term.