Thank you Mr. Chair,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its Member States.
The EU welcomes the holding of the eighth meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing. Firstly we extend congratulations and best wishes to our new Chair who has accepted a challenging task. Let me also express our thanks to the other Bureau members and to the United Nations staff for all the work they have done to prepare for this session.
The situation of older persons and the protection of their human rights remain high on the agenda of the European Union and its Member States. This is also reflected in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy in which the EU commits to increase awareness of the human rights and specific needs of older persons with particular attention to age based discrimination.
In the EU, many Member States are experiencing significant population ageing. The EU is keenly aware of the difficulties faced by older persons who make up a growing proportion of its population, and of the need to do more to ensure that they enjoy their human rights. In previous Open-Ended Working Group meetings we have had very informative exchanges and debates about these issues, but we would like to commend the decision taken by this working group to focus our debates on the concrete challenges and problems older persons are facing in all our societies. The European Union was pleased to see that the Bureau has chosen to reserve a large part of our agenda for a discussion on substance that should help us to find common ground also on issues where we still have diverging views. The examination of two specific focus areas should enable us to identify priority elements that need to be addressed by the international community to improve the protection of the human rights of older persons and also to formulate ideas in an open debate about how this could be done. We look forward to engaging in the respective sessions on “equality and non-discrimination” and on “violence, neglect and abuse”.
As the previous meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing was just over half a year ago our update on recent developments in the EU in the field of ageing can be shorter than usual. The European Semester 2017 Spring Package, that the European Commission presented some six weeks ago, confirms the recent recovery of the European economy.
To strengthen the positive trends and the convergence within and between our countries, the recommendations made under the European Semester of economic policy coordination focus on a more inclusive, robust and sustainable growth, with an enhanced focus on the social priorities and challenges in the Member States. On 26 April 2017, the European Commission presented its proposal for a European Pillar of Social Rights, which sets out key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. One of those key principles is that, regardless of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, everyone has the right to equal treatment and opportunities in employment, social protection, education, and access to goods and services, including access to affordable and good quality long-term care,. Equal opportunities of under-represented groups shall be fostered. In the European Pillar of Social Rights package there is also a proposal on work balance with improved possibilities for carer’s leave. The key objective is to modernise the current EU legal and policy framework to improve access to care facilities, family leave and flexible working arrangements, and to increase female labour market participation. For the first time a carer’s leave of five days per year is proposed, with financial compensation at least at the level of sick pay, in case of sickness of a direct relative. The proposal also aims to give carers (for example of older relatives) the right to request flexible working arrangements, like reduced or flexible working hours or flexibility on the place of work. These Commission proposals are now under discussion in the European Parliament and with the EU Member States in the Council.
Because of the many intersections between age and disability and the much higher disability prevalence among older people, the EU considers the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to be of great importance also for a significant number of older persons. Mr. Chair,
On the 14th of June, on the occasion of the 12th World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, our commitment in this area has been illustrated by a workshop in Brussels on the protection and support for victims of elder abuse that was organised by the European Commission together with AGE Platform Europe, the Council of Europe and Victim Support Europe. It brought together experts and researchers with representatives from European institutions and directly concerned civil society organisations. It showed the need for preventative measures alongside actions to increase reporting of elder abuse and to further develop victim support services also specifically for older persons.
The European Union has been strongly supportive of the decision, taken at our previous session, to facilitate the participation of National Human Rights Institutions in the meetings of the Open-Ended Working Group. NHRIs play a crucial role in upholding human rights, including those of older persons. This can be seen already during this session. In cooperation with ENNHRI, the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, we will host a side event at lunchtime on Friday (7 July), to present the findings of a project coordinated by ENNHRI and funded by the European Commission. The pilot research project has been carried out by the National Human Rights Institutions of Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania. It aims to promote the human rights of older persons in long-term care, with particular emphasis on residential care. You are all invited, although we expect a strong demand for places in Conference Room 12 at 1.15 pm.
2017 is an important year for gauging progress made in the implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), which will be reviewed for the third time. The EU Member States are committed to fulfil the Regional Implementation Strategy (RIS) of the MIPAA. The five year period, covering 2012-2017, has been coordinated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). At the upcoming 2017 UNECE Ministerial Conference on Ageing, to be held in Lisbon (Portugal) from 20 – 22 September, we will take stock of the progress made by many Member States in fulfilling the ten commitments of the UNECE RIS/MIPAA during its third five-year cycle. The results of this exercise will soon become available. In addition to better using the potential of the MIPAA, the EU would like to recall that the whole spectrum of internationally recognised human rights standards and principles also covers and protects older persons, without discrimination. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as other conventions, address many relevant issues — for example in the areas of health, social security, violence and discrimination. Our discussions in this Working Group provide an excellent opportunity to examine how the international normative framework can be used more effectively to address the situation of older persons and examine protection gaps that require additional action.
We very much look forward to the interactive discussions, in particular in the two focus areas. We are pleased to see that Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons, will play a prominent role in each of the discussion rounds. I would like to use this opportunity to recall that the EU and its Member States fully support the work of the Independent Expert. We also consider that the protection of the human rights of older persons requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders, including civil society organisations, and we welcome the strong CSO participation in this session.
I will conclude by reiterating that the EU looks forward to a productive session and an open debate, and that we are keen to exchange relevant experiences and views on ways to make tangible progress in the realisation of the human rights of older persons.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.