Welcome to Agnes, COFACE's incoming Director!
This February 1st, 2012, COFACE’s incoming Director, Agnes Uhereczky, took up office. She will be working alongside myself up to May 1st when I shall officially retire.
Mother of two young boys, Agnes is a 36-year old Hungarian national with already 10 years experience of work in Brussels at EU level, of which 6 years as Director of AVSO, a European organisation active in the field of volunteering. Therefore 2011 – European Year of Volunteering saw Agnes on all fronts promoting the value of voluntary service.
She has a BA degree in Business Economics and a Masters degree in European Affairs. She speaks fluent English, French and German and also has a good knowledge of Italian.
I am sure that Agnes will be an excellent Director of our Confederation with lots of new ideas for developing the organisation’s efficiency and visibility in favour of policies supporting families living in Europe and mainstreaming the family dimension through EU policies and initiatives.
Agnes is joining a remarkably enthusiastic and youthful team. She will mark further rejuvenation and work in close fruitful cooperation with COFACE’s statutory Officers and bodies, which will also be renewed at the coming General Assembly end March.
I am truly confident in the future of our Confederation and its dynamism in advocating a European Union for all families.
Welcome to Agnes!
William Lay, Director
Safer Internet Day 2012: COFACE encourages the set up of privacy protection tools
7/02/2012 - Online advertising has been growing tremendously over the last decade. It has grown by 15.3% in 2010 and has reached 17.7 billion € in the EU.
In order to save money on advertising campaigns and avoid that consumers are exposed to irrelevant ads, behavioural or targeted advertising has steadily developed over the last few years. Although internet users might find it useful to be exposed to ads relevant to their interests, many concerns remain around the trade-offs of this new service. When considering the amount of private information that needs to be collected about an individual to show him/her ads relevant to his/her interests, consumers could become much less enthusiastic about behavioural advertising.
More information on this issue, click here
"Surfing the Net together is safer surfing" is a practical handbook for parents from our French member UNAF and "Internet sans crainte" giving pointers and tips for children’s computer use, like: have computers and games consoles set up in a family room, set a user session and password for each family member, stress the importance of not giving out personal information online,...
UNAF’s aim is to support parents in the complex task of parenting in the digital age. Read the guide here (in French).
SIP-BENCH II: Benchmarking of parental control tools for the online protection of children
COFACE will be taking part as external expert to a European project which aims at assessing the quality of parental control features on computers, mobile phones and gaming consoles. At present, the project partners are looking for volunteer parents to randomly test a tool and fill out an evaluation questionnaire about a parental control tool. For more information on the project contact us or click here
A step in the right direction regarding collective redress
03/02/2012 - Collective redress mechanisms can provide an alternative where consumers decide that taking action individually is not feasible as all too often litigation costs may be disproportionate to the value of the claim.
On the 2nd of February, the EU Parliament approved the resolution on collective redress, urging the Commission to act. The document, along with the opinions of the ECON and IMCO committees, underlines the importance and need to set up a horizontal collective redress mechanism at EU level.
COFACE welcomes the adoption of the resolution. All three documents acknowledge some fundamental points, stressing for instance that while many EU member states already have collective redress mechanisms in place, no abusive litigation cases were identified.
Read our full press release here
Family reunification directive
The right to Family reunification is currently regulated with an EU Directive adopted in 2003. The Directive defines the conditions of entry and residence for non-EU family members joining a non-EU citizen already legally residing in a Member State. In November 2011 the European Commission launched a green paper to initiate a public debate on the Directive.
In this framework, the European Commission has officially consulted the Council of Europe with regard to the directive on the right to family reunification. The Commission will organise a hearing in the following weeks with a decision on whether or not to adopt further measures concerning the directive.
The CoE migrations committee feels that keeping things as they stand is not a possibility. According to the chairman of the committee, while family policy is a national area of responsibility, the directive must remain a solid basis, below which no country should be able to go without exemption from the legislation. This common basis is extremely difficult to define as EU member states differ in the "definition of family”.
This varies according to the value and importance given to the principle of dependence, and the Council of Europe recommendation calls for the inclusion of de facto family members: illegitimate children, children over the age of 18 who are still dependent, the elderly and/or dependents, cohabitant partners, including of the same sex. Lots of prejudices exist still but the role of the Council of Europe is to maintain the greater interest of the child and of the most vulnerable groups.
The note sent to the Commission states that family reunification is at the basis of successful integration. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights is put back at the centre of debate: "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life”.
press release on the Right to Family Reunification
COFACE responded to the Green Paper on the
right to family reunification of third country nationals living in the European
Union (Directive 2003/86/EC), highlighting the family dimension and the
family perspective, bringing first hand information from its member
organisations and recalling key principles for the effective implementation of
the right to family reunification.
its response, COFACE stresses that the right to family life is recognised in
International and European Human Rights Instruments and therefore, families
should be supported and facilitated in the fulfilment of such a right, with no
discrimination of individuals or of family forms.
Read the full
Press release | More
information on this subject
Commission presents White Paper on pensions
In the context of rapid ageing of our societies and increasing pressure of pensions on national budgets, the European Commission issued on 16 February a White paper on pensions. It puts forward policy initiatives to support Member States in the reform of their pension systems.
See the European Commission press release
Please see also the press release of ETUC and the Joint press release of EWL/AGE/YFJ. On our website we have our response to the Green Paper (October 2010).
European Year of Citizens 2013 Alliance first meeting
The first meeting of the European Year of Citizens 2013 Alliance took place in Brussels on 27 January, chaired by Jean-Marc Roirant, President of the European Civic Forum. The Alliance consists of European level civil society networks which aim to coordinate the input of its members towards the preparation and implementation of the next European Year.
Though all European level networks applauded the efforts of the European Commission to organise the 2013 European Year campaign around the questions of European citizenship, much disappointment was expressed on the narrow compass of the Year. Participants in the meeting articulated many of their concerns such as the focus (mobility, individual rights..), concept, name and the budget of the European Year. With the coordination of the European Civic Forum, the Alliance will continue its lobby efforts to feed and endorse the work of the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Parliament in drafting their reports on the European Year of Citizens 2013.
COFACE actively supports and contributes to the work of the Alliance to enlarge the scope of the European Year.
New member: Fundación de Familias Monoparentales Isadora Duncan, Spain
The association has been helping women facing motherhood on their own for 28 years, noticing the difficult living conditions of many of these one parent families, how little society knows about them, how scarcely they are supported and their high risk to suffer from social exclusion processes which set them on the edges of society.
Single Mother Association "Isadora Duncan" was founded in 1984 by a group of single mothers with the main aim of vindicating and defending the rights that they, as women and families, have been given by Spanish laws, fighting against obvious or hidden discrimination, suffered by their condition.
In its statutes it is expressed the need of being single mothers to belong to the board of directors to avoid the association losing its protest character. From this perspective, activities carried out by the association during these years have aimed to pay attention to all the aspects incorporated in the single mother because as her condition as one parent family and of woman.
Väestöliitto published its 2011 Family Barometer
The Population Research Institute of Väestöliitto, The Family Federation of Finland, publishes a yearly Family Barometer on topics related to parenting, marriage, family policies and fertility in Finland. Väestöliitto published its 2011 Family Barometer with the title "Searching for family time”.
Results show that parents spend more time with their children. Today, mothers with children below school age spend almost two hours on average in daily child care. Fathers spend 1:24 minutes. This is an increase of around 9 % for both men and women.
Interestingly, Finnish fathers have increased both their time in child care and their share of domestic chores. In 1999, fathers did 2 hours, in 2010 already 2:19 hours on average in domestic chores. Women did around 3:10 hours in both time periods. This finding received much positive attention in the Finnish media and turned into a nation-wide joke during the presidential election, when one candidate commented that in his home, men do 100% of the housework.
Another positive result was that although parents somewhat more often reported lack of time, the sense of being in a hurry had decreased. Overall, the time spent in wage labour has slightly decreased among parents. However, many fathers of young children still do very long working hours.
In all value studies Finns report high preferences for having children and for family-centered values. "Family time” is an unquestioned goal among today’s fathers and mothers. Väestöliitto's results show that these values, combined with a long-term family policy encouraging the combination of wage-work and family life as well as gender equality at home, also actually affect the behaviour of parents. People want to be more with their children, and also often manage to do so.
For more information please contact email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org or go to: www.vaestoliitto.fi
Past and forthcoming meetings
Reconciliation between Private and Professional Life (10/2/12)
The ‘European Conference on Reconciliation between Private and Professional Life’ was held in Padua, Italy on the 10th of February. With this conference, the Veneto region, host of the event, aimed to present a series of concrete projects such as the "family label” and the "family audit for companies” that are starting to be implemented in its constituency.
The conference focused on sharing experiences in addressing families’ needs and on reflecting on the role that regional, local authorities and enterprises play in promoting innovation in work-life balance schemes.
COFACE has been called to share the view of family organisations on this topic. It recalled the importance of reconciliation policies and their effective implementation and welcomed the efforts of the local Government to put family policy high on the political agenda.
To know more about the conference, please consult the programme
Financial advice provided by non-profit entities to consumers (7/2/12)
COFACE attended an event organised in the European Parliament focused on the significance of financial advice when consumers face important decisions such as contracting a mortgage. Often, such advice is given within the financial institutions themselves and obvious conflict of interest questions arise. The provision of independent financial advice from non-profit entities could help consumers in their decision-making process.
COFACE insisted on the difficult situations consumers face when they seek to buy a house.
Once a consumer or, as it often happens, a couple and/or a family finds a house that suits their needs, they are on a relatively tight schedule. Several steps need to be taken: schedule an appointment with your bank as well as checking for competing offers from other banks, searching for alternative mortgage credit insurances to the one bundled with your credit, contact your notary, seek independent financial advice… Should the consumer take too much time, the house may be bought by somebody else. Yet, all of these steps are very time consuming and stressful.
In fact, signing a mortgage credit is among the most stressful events in a human being’s life. The consumer is therefore extremely vulnerable, regardless of his/her level of knowledge, between the moment he/she finds a house and the moment he/she signs the final purchase contract.
Independent advice from select not-for-profit actors is therefore seen as essential from COFACE’s point of view, both before subscribing to a mortgage credit, during the negotiation period and after the contract has been sealed as a follow up in case of trouble. Such actors need financial support from public bodies in order to guarantee their independence and the quality of their advice. Banks will never be able to provide for unbiased financial advice, especially when it comes to suggesting and redirecting the consumer towards financial products from competing banks and/or insurance companies.
Not-for-profit entities could help consumers by providing general advice but also more personalised and technical advice on a specific financial product. Nevertheless, such entities require a lot of resources and capacity (financing, staff, training…) as well as more visibility as many consumers are not aware of their existence.
COFACE urges the EU and Member States to encourage new ways of delivering advice and to support not-for-profit entities providing independent financial advice.
8 March: Presentation of the "Garlic Project – Roma families” Graz, Austria
9 March: Working Group "Family and Social policies”, Graz, Austria
26 March: COFACE Executive Bureau and Administrative Council
27 March: COFACE General Assembly, Brussels
19 April: COFACE Seminar on e-Health, Brussels
20 April: Working Group "Consumer Protection, Services, Public Health and Sustainable Development policies", Brussels
List of forthcoming events
Save the date! 19 April 2012: COFACE Seminar on "E-Health: Challenges and opportunities for families", Brussels
COFACE will organise a Seminar on E-Health: Challenges and opportunities for families on 19 April 2012 at the European Economic and Social Committee.
See the draft programme: http://www.coface-eu.org/en/Policies/Consumers-Health/eHealth/
Progress in technology has created new opportunities but also new challenges. E-health in particular presents itself with a number of advantages. Whether we talk about consultation at a distance, patient follow-up, e-monitoring or sharing data via a centralised medical file, all of these breakthroughs offer new possibilities to patients and to the medical staff.
Nevertheless, some questions need to be kept in mind in the face of such innovations:
* Is Health care at a distance comparable to Healthcare at the local site?
* Does the loss of physical contact with the patient constitute a problem?
* Does distance care and e-monitoring interfere with the patient’s privacy?
* Does the patient have the choice to opt-out of these technologies?
* Does the patient retain control over the informations exchanged or disclosed to the medical staff?
* Is there a risk of social exclusion for some families?
The political dimension of public health will also be on the agenda.
Finally, the main thread of the seminar will be to address the family dimension. Patients are rarely isolated. They are very often surrounded by their family and close relatives. It is not always easy for a family to reconcile their professional and private life in order to care for an ill family member. How can e-health help in this context?
If you wish to attend this event, please contact our Secretariat.