Editorial: Au revoir! by William Lay
This is my last editorial after 28 years at the head
of COFACE. It's a perfect time to remind you of my credo for COFACE and Europe in a few words.
After all these years, I am more convinced than ever
of the absolute necessity for an organisation like COFACE which brings together
all types of national family organisations. As a pluralistic organisation,
COFACE must be open to every family type co-existing across Europe.
All of these families reflect the reality, and are an essential component, of
the lives of the human beings living on our continent. Every member
organisation defends its own idea of what a family is and has its own
convictions and its own definition of the family. That's why, as a
Confederation, COFACE doesn't have its own definition of the family but rather
encourages dialogue and debate. We discuss families and family life and
experience has shown that this is the best way to find common ground. It's
important that this approach survive in an increasingly diversified Europe.
Our Confederation's open, respectful, dignified, and
constructive approach is sometimes misunderstood, notably by those who fear
that this openness will destroy their own type of family. We must be aware to
these fears to better enter into a dialogue. Withdrawal has never led to human
progress. On the contrary, we have to open doors and windows because we are all
human beings, each with their own truth. We can really only make progress
together, each of us bringing their own vision without trying to impose it on
The role of COFACE is to promote family policies in
this same pluralistic spirit, that is, those policies that support
families... all families. By getting back to basics, family policies must take
into consideration all family situations in the interest of overall social
cohesion, of parents and, especially, of children who, under no circumstances,
should have to suffer the consequences of their parents' lifestyle and status.
There can be no exclusion or discrimination based on the type of family in
which a child grows up.
What provides COFACE with its richness and intrinsic
value is that it approaches the family without judging it and with respect for
each person's lifestyle choices, as long as there is respect for human dignity.
European construction has always been a passion of
mine. It's an incredible and original undertaking and, contrary to what people
would often have you believe, it's an undertaking that works. The European
Union has made war between Member States impossible and has, simultaneously,
created an area of freedom for all which is without precedent on our continent.
Of course, there is still a lot to be done: there are still too many
inequalities, injustices, and exclusions, and too much discrimination in the Union. I don't know of any human undertaking that is
without problems, but going back is inconceivable. That would be detrimental to
the quality of life of all Europeans. We see daily how intertwined the fate of
our peoples has become. Here too, there is only one option available, that is
to move forward together in solidarity.
COFACE was created 50 years ago to work within the
framework of this new Europe and to defend the
family in European policies, initiatives and programmes.
The European Union cannot ignore the family without
risking cutting itself off from the daily concerns of its populations. It's
essential that it be taken into account to bring Europe
closer to its citizens. COFACE is there to continuously remind people of this
The European Union and COFACE learn from each another
about the most important thing in the lives of men and women: living together.
Thank you Europe and
thank you COFACE for these fantastic projects under development. And all the
best to those of you who support them...
Discover our new BLOG "Reconciling
Work and Family Life”
eHealth Seminar: Challenges and opportunities for
On the 19th of April, COFACE and the FPS organised a seminar on e-health at the European Social and Economic
Committee. After an introductory speech by Maureen O'Neil, the EESC's Group III
Vice-President, and Nicolas
Revenu, Chair of the relevant COFACE working group, the
seminar focused on four panel discussions which covered various stakeholders'
perspectives and approaches to e-health. The two first panels were dedicated to
actions by public authorities at both EU and national level and the two last
panels encompassed the users, the providers, the medical staff and the social
security's point of view and experience with e-health.
Several key points emerged from the input of
the speakers and the participation of the audience... READ MORE
COFACE calls the EU institutions to exclude
arbitrary detention for children and other vulnerable asylum seekers
COFACE joins and supports the "Appeal to the EU
institutions to ensure respect for the right to liberty of asylum seekers in
the recast of the reception condition directive and Dublin regulation” signed by 166
"Children and vulnerable asylum seekers such as
pregnant women, older persons, persons with physical or mental disabilities
must not be detained. The best interest of the child must be the guiding
principle when a child is involved in an asylum seeking procedure, either
unaccompanied or with his/her family” said Annemie
Drieskens, COFACE President, and she added that "specific attention must be paid to families
and their vulnerable members”.
In particular, COFACE recalls and stresses that asylum
seekers must be protected from arbitrary detention as required under
international refugee and human rights law and other international instruments,
including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Moreover, COFACE strongly encourages
the EU Institutions to refer to the ‘negotiating checklist’ launched by ECRE
where recalled that:
(1) Vulnerable asylum seekers, in particular children, elderly, pregnant
women, persons with physical or mental disabilities, victims of torture and
ill-treatment and traumatised persons should not be detained. In the truly
exceptional case that detention of vulnerable asylum seekers is considered
necessary as a last resort, it must be established by an independent qualified
expert that their health will not deteriorate as a result of detention. In such
truly exceptional cases, conditions of detention and procedural safeguards must
take into account their specific vulnerability.
(2) Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children must never be
for Safer Internet and better internet content for children and teenagers
The European Commission has set out a plan to give
children the digital skills and tools they need to benefit fully and safely
from the digital world. Today 75% of children use the internet, a third of them
on mobiles. The new strategy is to build up the market for interactive,
creative and educational content online, in a partnership between the European
Commission and Member States, mobile phone operators, handset manufacturers and
providers of social networking services.
Varying national approaches mean that children across
the EU have different levels of empowerment and protection online. This also
makes it difficult for businesses to market child-friendly services and
products EU-wide. To overcome these hurdles, the Commission has outlined a
range of measures, which will be implemented by different means including industry
self-regulation, which should lead to flexible and fast solutions in this
Actions are grouped around four main goals:
- To stimulate the production of creative and
educational online content for children and develop platforms which give access
to age-appropriate content.
- To scale up awareness raising and teaching of online
safety in all EU schools to develop
children's digital and media literacy and self-responsibility online.
- Creating a safe environment for children where parents
and children are given the tools
necessary for ensuring their protection online – such as easy-to-use
mechanisms to report harmful content and conduct online, transparent default
age-appropriate privacy settings or user-friendly parental controls.
- Combating child sexual abuse material online by promoting research into, and use of, innovative technical solutions
by police investigations.
Commission Press release
Communication "Towards a Job-rich Recovery”
On 18 April, the European Commission
presented its employment package containing a series of non-binding measures
for stimulating economic recovery. The Commission approves of setting up
systems for introducing a national
minimum wage, which it believes should help to play a role in tackling the
problem of the working poor.
In its communication "Towards a Job-rich Recovery”, the Commission
admits that the risk of in-work poverty is high, particularly in countries with
uneven earnings distribution and low minimum wages, among people with temporary
contracts and in low work intensity and single parent households.
One week after the presentation of the
Communication, COFACE participated in the European Parliament Employment
Committee meeting, where Commissioner Andor introduced the document. COFACE
applauded the Communication, which puts emphasizes on the growing health and
social care sectors due to the ageing population. In addition, COFACE warmly
welcomed the observation of an accompanying Staff Working Document of the
Communication, which documented that "as consequences of demographic and family
changes and the need for better life-work balance, new services covering broad
ranges of activities are created and are a source of job creation”. This
statement closely associates with COFACE’s initiative on a European Year for
Reconciling Work and Family Life in 2014.
On 6-7 September, Commissioner Andor will host a high level employment
conference to mobilise all partners to implement the measures announced by the
Commission. | Plus
Report on progress in Gender Equality
On 16 April, the European Commission published its
report on progress in gender equality 2011. In addition to the percentages, a clear picture is emerging: more women are needed on the
labour market, as well as equal pay for men and women and equal opportunities
for reaching high positions in the professional field. Several measures have been taken over recent months,
with regard to observations made in this report:
Employment – Although
the EU 2020 strategy target is to have 75% of the adult population working by
the end of this decade, men have already reached this objective, whereas only
62% of women are currently participating in the labour market. The Commission
hopes that its recommendations of last June on the EU2020 strategy will help to
rectify the situation. This will involve reconciling work and private life and
developing better childcare solutions, more flexible work organisation and
ensuring that a second household income is not reviewed downwards.
Wages and responsibilities –Money is the most important area with regard to the question of gender
equality. Women still earn less than men in the European Union – 16.4% on
average less than men. This has an impact on their pensions and is further
compounded by career breaks and part-time work.
Violence – Another area,
where the lack of equality is less visible but equally harmful in terms of the
cost to society, can be located in the issue involving violence against women.
Publication: Alcohol in the European Union.
Consumption, harm and policy approaches
European Commission and the WHO Regional Office for Europe - This new report uses information gathered in 2011 to update key
indicators on alcohol consumption, health outcomes and action to reduce harm
across the EU. The report updates the evidence base for some
important areas of alcohol policy, and provides in reducing the harm done to
health and society by excessive drinking with useful information to guide
The report recognizes harm done by alcohol dependent people to the
families, the role family plays in shaping drinking habits and the effectiveness
of family-based programmes.
Alcohol is one of the world’s top three priority areas in public health.
Even though only half the global population drinks alcohol, it is the world’s
third leading cause of ill health and premature death, after low birth weight
and unsafe sex. In Europe, alcohol is the
third leading risk factor for disease and death after tobacco and high blood
pressure. The WHO report, which includes some allusions to the impact of alcohol
in families, is available here.
Launch of the Generation 1992 creative
European Commission is inviting all 20-year-old Europeans to get creative and
voice their views on the single market by launching a creativity competition.
The launch of the Generation 1992 creative competition marks 20 years since the
creation of the single market, enabling freedom for the movement of goods,
capital, people and services in 27 EU countries.
are invited to share their views, experiences, insights and expectations of the
single market by picking up a pen, paintbrush, camera, computer, tablet or
mobile phone and letting their creativity flow! Submissions may be from
individuals or groups, and should fall into one of the following categories:
education and citizenship; jobs and entrepreneurship; culture and leisure; and
consumers and environment.
competition kicks off on 11 April 2012. Its progress can be followed through
the social media and the Generation 1992 website.
Meetings of the month
Transnational Seminar on Intercultural Families
The Unión de asociaciones familiales of Spain (UNAF)
organised the II Transnational Seminar on Intercultural Families with the
support of the University of Malaga. The seminar covered the phenomenon of
intercultural families and their impact on family life types, community
relations, and support for minors in the countries of southern Europe through
the prism of social sciences and an international outlook.
It also analysed the legal, psycho-social, and
educational needs and requirements arising as a result of the growing
intercultural composition of society. Different approaches to respond to new
family realities were also covered.
COFACE insisted on the
need for migrant and intercultural families
to receive and have access to all of the rights found in "generic"
family policies in their countries of residence (family allowances,
services, time management, etc.). Specific measures and policies to support the special
needs of certain families can be introduced, but must be complementary to "generic” family policies and not substitute for
A few critical points were raised: The definition of
"family members" is not the same in the different instruments; the
discretionary power of Member States is still very high; procedures are often
long, difficult and expensive (which can lead to discrimination); and the
all-important interests of children must always take priority in procedures.
Release (in Spanish) | Pictures
Quality of work and employment: A policy tool
towards inclusive and sustainable growth
COFACE took part in the "Quality of work and employment: A policy tool
towards inclusive and sustainable growth” conference organised by Eurofound in
the European Parliament. This event brought into focus the current importance
of job recovery including job and working conditions. This event had also
special relevancy considering that the European Commission has recently
presented its "Towards a job-rich recovery” Communication.
The event was opened by Martin Schulz, President of the European
Parliament and consisted of several presentations from various stakeholders
such as Bernadette Ségol, ETUC or Leila Kurki, President of the EESC Section of
Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship. In his contribution, Koos Richelle,
European Commission Director-General DG Employment, Social affairs and
Inclusion highlighted the activities of the EC in terms of job recovery such as
the New Skills and Jobs flagship initiative, EU Skills Panorama or the newly
launched Employment Package.
This event also provided room to introduce Eurofound’s 5th European
Working Conditions Survey 2010, and particularly its findings concerning
the quality of work and employment. Many of the survey’s conclusions and
assessments are relevant relating to family issues and policies, like its
chapter on Quality of Work and Employment which calls for multidimensional
policies highlighting work-life balance for men and women.
Better self-regulation and regulation in advertising:
civil society cares
On the 28th of March, COFACE attended the event organised by the
European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) entitled "Advertising: We
Care!". EASA is a coordinating body for national advertising
self-regulatory bodies and is responsible for promoting advertising that
complies to a set of ethical rules, namely that it should be legal, decent,
honest, truthful, prepared with a sense of social responsibility to the
consumer as well as society as a whole and created with due respect to the
rules of fair competition.
The event focused on the achievements of self-regulation in advertising
across Europe and identifying the remaining
challenges to identify the way forward.
COFACE represented the civil society perspective on self-regulation on
advertising by participating in the panel discussion "Advertising
self-regulation - part of the future policy mix to ensure responsible
advertising?" and insisted on the importance of reviewing the standards as
opposed to deliberating whether regulation in advertising should be in the
hands of private (self-regulatory) or public bodies.
COFACE also underlined that self-regulatory bodies can only be as good
as the standards they set. That is why public authorities and NGOs need to be
widely involved in the drafting process and the periodic review of these
standards. New challenges such as online
advertising also need to be better addressed.
Presentation of the COFACE-Disability
publication on ‘The Family Dimension of the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ @ the EP
15 May 2012 – 4.00 pm-5.30 pm, European
On the occasion of the International
Day of Families COFACE will present together with Ádám Kósa (MEP, Chair of the
Disability Intergroup) the publication, The Family
Dimension of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities at the
European Parliament in Brussels on 15 May 2012.
With this publication, COFACE aims to
highlight the family dimension of the Convention, contribute to its
dissemination, support the implementation of the European Commission's European
Disability Strategy 2010-2020 as well as the European Parliament's report on
mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities drafted by Ádám KÓSA MEP. It
also aims at empowering European citizens living with disabilities and their
May 15, the International Day of Families is devoted
to mark the relevance that the international community places on family issues
as a fundamental unit of our society, as well as to highlight concerns about
their situation in many parts of the world. This day provides also an opportunity to reflect on
the work started in 1994 and to celebrate the importance of families, people
and societies around the world.
To obtain more information and
register for this event, click here
COFACE Seminar on
"Reconciling Work and Care responsibilities: a challenge for family carers
in Europe" @ the EP
26 June 2012 - 2.00 pm-5.00 pm, European Parliament, Brussels
Work-family balance policies are fundamental for families and for
society as a whole. Reconciliation policies are, indeed, fundamental tools to
enhance gender equality and women employment, but also lowering the risk
of poverty for the most vulnerable families such lone parents and large
families. Reconciling work and family becomes even more challenging, but
crucial, for those family members who also have care responsibilities.
In Europe, family members are the
largest provider of care for older, frail, disabled and chronically ill people
of all ages. However, caring for a loved one often comes with a considerable
personal cost to family carers, with many experiencing, financial,
professional, health and social consequences. Policies enabling to reconcile
work and care responsibilities are necessary to help to maintain and / or improve the
quality of life of family carers and care recipients, to enhance family carers’
social inclusion and to foster quality care for persons with dependency needs.
The event will have multi-dimensional approach and speakers from NGOs,
social partners, European Institutions and family carers themselves will
explore and discuss policy challenges and proposals to support family carers
reconciling their work life and their care responsibilities.
The discussion will be enriched also through the presentation of the
results of a 2-year-project involving over 10 organisations which, looking at
very practical aspects of the life of family carers, and exchanging good practices,
have been able to identify common challenges across Member States and to formulate
sets of specific policy recommendations.
For further inquiry,
please contact us
List of forthcoming events