2021 is, as each year before, a packed year. Here is a short overview of important EU files regarding families we keep a close eye on this year. Of course, we will inform you about the progress over the year.
- EU Child Guarantee
- Consumer Credit Directive
- European Disability Strategy
- Digital Services Act
- Digital Education Action Plan
- Gender Equality Strategy
- Minimum Wages Directive
EU Child Guarantee
The European Commission is preparing both the EU Child Guarantee and the EU Child Rights Strategy, both planned for publication in March this year. We will continue to feed into this process based on the conclusions of our 2020 seminar on the EU Child Guarantee, our response to the EU consultation on the Pillar of Social Rights, and also our 2030 Child Compass to steer action on developing a healthy society, environment and economy fit for children.
The EU Child Guarantee will be essential to the implementation of the EU Child Rights Strategy, and will also be part of the upcoming Action Plan on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Consumer Credit Directive
Following the public consultation earlier last year, the European Commission published a report addressed to the European Council and Parliament on the 5th of November 2020, which summarises its conclusions and review of the Consumer Credit Directive and the way forward. The Commission underlines in the report that the Consumer Credit Directive has partially achieved the goals of ensuring high standards of consumer protection and fostering the development of a single market for credit, but that in order to fully achieve those goals and address some new emerging trends (such as digitalisation), a review of the Directive is necessary. Some of the areas that the report mentions specifically as requiring a review include:
- The scope and the credit-granting process (including the pre-contractual information and creditworthiness assessment)
- Improving certain key definitions (possibly such as what is responsible vs. irresponsible lending)
- Extend the scope of the Directive to cover credits below the 200€ threshold.
COFACE-Families Europe is waiting for next steps and the precise timeline, and will get involved in making sure that key aspects of the revision are maintained.
More information here.
European Disability Strategy
The main event of 2021 on the EU disability rights agenda is the 2021-2030 European Disability Strategy (EDS), scheduled for adoption by the College of Commissioners on the 17th of February. Under the leadership of the European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dailli, it is the core EU effort to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
This new strategy comes to replace (and hopefully expand and reinforced) the 2010-2020 EDS and its 8 areas of actions (accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health, and external action). It comes at a strategic, but challenging time. The COVID-19 crisis shed the light on the challenges faced by persons with disability and their families, highlighting how far we are to comply with the UNCRPD promises and the ones of Sustainable Development Goals (which cannot be achieved nor adequately advanced without a strong disability angle). Additionally, the EDS should act as a cornerstone of the upcoming Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights. Thus, the next EDS must be both fully in line with these frameworks and work as one of their implementing tool.
Expectations are high, both on content and on its operationalization, notably on the demanded monitoring mechanisms, mainstreaming of disability rights in all relevant policies and clear objectives and timelines to drive the full inclusion of the persons with disabilities and their families. At COFACE Families Europe we are particularly eager to see the next EDS stepping up the deinstitutionalisation process by accompanying the political, societal and funding S.H.I.F.T necessary to the transition to family-based and community-based services. For that purpose, we strongly recommend the EDS to support families of persons with disabilities notably by moving towards the recognition of family carers, in line with the European Charter of Family Carers. We also need strong commitments from the Members States to work with the EU within respective competences embedded in Council Conclusions.
With all these in mind, 2021 promises to be an interesting and busy year in the field of disability rights!
Digital Services Act
The European Commission has published a first proposal of the Digital Services Directive (DSA) on the 15th of December 2020. The proposal will be assessed by the European Parliament and Council in the coming months. It covers a variety of online actors such as providers of intermediary services online, hosts and online platforms providers, online platforms and very large online platform providers (with more than 45 million users EU wide). In addition to the DSA, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) is also noteworthy as it looks at interoperability and anti-trust regulation of online actors. These two regulations combined have the potential to greatly affect the online environment, addressing some of the major risks emerging in the last two decades: a gradual emergence of monopolies within big tech companies, risks of manipulation of people’s opinions, elections, fraud and spam through advertising etc.
From the “free speech” angle, the positive aspects of the DSA is that it does not question the principle of limited liability of content posted by third parties for platforms, or oblige them in monitoring content. The DSA proposal does however place increased scrutiny on advertising. Larger platforms will have to be audited to test the suitability of their moderation apparatus, and will have to issue yearly reports on their moderation of reported content. Independent academics will be granted access to data relevant to assess whether these large platforms comply with the regulation. Larger platforms will also have to provide more control over their recommender systems to users.
COFACE Families Europe will provide a more thorough analysis of the DSA and follow the legislative process closely. More information here.
Digital Education Action Plan
COFACE will closely follow the implementation of the updated Digital Education Action Plan (DEAP). On 30 September 2020, the European Commission presented the new Action Plan as part of the ambition of the European Commission towards a European Education Area. The new DEAP proposes a set of initiatives for high-quality, inclusive and accessible digital education in Europe for the period 2021-2027. The Action Plan has two long-term strategic priorities, the first is to develop a high-performing digital education ecosystem and the second is to enhance digital competences for the digital transformation.
As part of the DEAP, the Commission will pursue several actions, among which launching a strategic dialogue with EU Member States, proposing a Council recommendation on online and distance learning, supporting connectivity in schools, supporting digital transformation plans at all levels of education and training, developing common guidelines for teachers and educational staff to foster digital literacy and tackle disinformation, and proposing a council recommendation on improving the provision of digital skills in education and training.
In order to strengthen the cooperation and exchange in digital education at EU level, the Commission will also create a European Digital Education Hub, which will foster collaboration between Member States, facilitate sharing good practices, create a network of national advisory services and strengthen the dialogue between stakeholders from the public and private sector.
Gender Equality Strategy
The latest reports of the EIGE’s Gender Equality Index have been showing that the EU continues at snail’s pace when it comes to gender equality progress. At the current pace, the EU is at least 60 years away from reaching complete gender equality. This is why the European Commission launched last March 2020 the new Gender Equality Strategy (GES) 2020-2025, which sets out what the Commission will do, across all policy areas to work towards achieving gender equality. The Strategy includes a set of key actions which will be regularly updated and supplemented, and their implementation will be monitored and progress in the Member States will be reported on an annual basis.
The key actions focus on gender-based violence, closing the gender gaps (pay, care, etc.), raising the visibility of women in top positions, fighting against stereotypes. The GES aims too to raise the gender mainstreaming across all the EU policies.
On its side, the European Parliament has recently voted its report on the GES. The report of MEP Maria Noichl welcomes the ambitious Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy but demands more actions on certain areas, binding targets to achieve and more available data on violence against women, closing the gender pay gap, reinforcing the rule of Law to fight against potential gender equality backlashes. The rapporteur also demands the need of continuing defending the diversity of families.
Minimum Wages Directive
The European Commission launched at the end of October 2020 a Directive proposal on minimum wages, so as to ensure workers a decent life, no matter which part of the EU they are from.
The Directive aims to tackle the so-called “poor workers” (one out of ten EU worker lives in poverty), to fight against the gender pay gaps (women are more likely than men to earn the minimum wage) and the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposal of the Commission underlines that there is no obligation to set out statutory minimum wages and wants to promote collective bargaining. The Commission does not have the competences granted by the European Treaties to set wages. It has the competence of complement Member States’ actions. What the proposal of the Directive does, however, is to set frameworks for better minimum wages.
The aim of the Commission with this Directive is to advance in in both economic and social convergence within the EU. Moreover, the indicators that appear in the Directive proposal are not compulsory, they are guidelines to help Member States to fix minimum wages. The Directive applies to all workers with a labour contract. Last, but not least, the proposal of the Commission strengthens the monitoring as every Member State has the duty to present a yearly report.
More information on the Commission’s proposal on minimum wages is available here.