Europe’s future: demographic challenges and opportunities for a strong recovery
In mid-February we were honored to welcome Mrs Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography at our video conference. Although the gathering was planned before the launch of ‘The Green Paper on Ageing’, on the 27th of January 2021, this was an interesting windfall.
The launch of this Green Paper is a decisive step in a policy process focussing on the EU response to demographic change.
As ESU, we were glad and proud that medio 2019 for the first time ever, a Vice-President in charge of Democracy and Demography has been designated in the EU Commission (2019-2024). In September 2019, at our ESU Congress in Sandanski, we expressed our congratulations, our concern and our hope for the future of Europe, and our willingness to work for a fair and inclusive Europe, based on democracy, the rule of law and solidarity. We were pleased that the EU would respond to one of its greatest challenges: demographic change, and that a comprehensive EU strategy on demographic change and intergenerational solidarity would be developed.
And yes, the EU Council, the EU Parliament and the EU Commission, with Mrs Dubravka Suica in particular, have taken various initiatives to open up a common perspective that responds to the various problems and opportunities presented by demographic change.
In June 2020, the European Commission launched a ‘Report on the impact of demographic change’ and in December 2020, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, holding the consecutive Presidency (July 2020-December 2021) of the Council of the European Union, presented a ‘Trio Declaration on Ageing’, integrating ageing and a life course perspective in an inclusive and comprehensive approach on ageing.
These will be particularly crucial for the follow-up to the Green Paper on ageing. Moreover, on 16 October 2020, the Council of the EU under the German temporary presidency adopted conclusions on: human rights, participation and well-being of older people in the age of digitalisation.
Vice-President Šuica did highlight some of the Commission’s initiatives in these areas, with emphasis on her own achievements. Being information on the Commissions’ COVID-19 response: “We have designed a European gateway to enable interoperability of COVID-19 tracing apps across Europe. We proposed an ambitious, forward-looking EU4Health programme. And we are building the first steps towards a European health union.”
She also reported on the impact of demographic change & ‘future work’ and more specifically The Green Paper on Ageing: “I want to emphasize the important message that ageing brings both challenges and opportunities. This really drives me in my work because we must balance our policy-making for everyone across the entire life cycle, making sure we leave no one behind. This is why on the 27th of January, we launched an eu-wide discussion on aging through our green paper. This paper is of particular interest to you, given you understanding that one of the key challenges of today’s societies is demographic change. As senior citizens, you want to be part of a better Europe for all ages.”
Please find her full speech here.
Following her exposé, we listened to two experienced ESU Vice-Presidents:
- Mrs Carmen Quintanilla has a long political career in Spain linked to the Partido Popular and in the Council of Europe, and is very active as President of AFammer, an important women’s movement.
- Mr Heinz K. Becker is former General Secretary of the Österreichische Seniorenbund (ÖSB) and former member of the European Parliament. He is very dedicated to ageing policies. Furthermore Mr Becker is the ESU- delegate in the EPP- working group 1, preparing a document on ‘the Europe we want’ in view of the next EPP Congress at the end of 2021.
During the first part of the meeting we could count on Professor Steven Van Hecke as moderator for the debate. In the second part of the conference he gave us some insight concerning ‘How to involve citizens in European politics’. This topic is closely related to the ‘involvEU fund’ which is managed by Professor Van Hecke. For more information on this interesting initiative see the involvEU website.
To conclude the session, our President An Hermans once again focused on the Green Paper on Ageing. Everyone is invited to respond and take part in the consultation that runs until 21 April 2021. Hereby a warm invitation to make your voice heard, the consultation is available in 22 languages.