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Social Europe: More Freedoms - More Opportunities for All
rights, freedoms and repression |
Saturday October 23, 2004 13:11 by John Carroll - International Secretary - Young Fine Gael jjcarrol at tcd dot ie
A Theme Political Programme Of The Youth Of The European People's Party (YEPP)
YEPP is the youth movement of the EPP and represents centre-right, Christian Democratic, conservative and populist political parties across the continent of Europe. Young Fine Gael is a member of YEPP.
This theme political program about European Social Policy is adopted by YEPP’s Council in Oslo, 9th October 2004.
This program has been initiated to promote YEPP’s views on issues that we feel crucial to the agenda of strengthening social integration in Europe. Key topics for the future of Europe will be to secure the sustainability of our social protection systems and our overall welfare and pensions. A European Social Policy Program should not aim at assimilating solutions, but rather build partnerships and coalitions to fight poverty and social exclusion.
YEPP do not believe in moving every pressing, national or local, issue to the EU institutions. Never the less, when realising that we face so many problems alike YEPP sees the opportunity to use our European Community to help achieve the Social Europe were aiming at, with more freedoms and more opportunities – for all.
Amidst us, there are no defined visions of a final and everlasting “System” establishing the optimal society. Such ideas and ideologies have failed brutally. YEPP and all our national member organisations represent another approach to securing welfare. It is rather values based approach that Christian Democrats, Liberal-Conservatives, Centre-Right and Popular Parties all over Europe represent. This approach is never fundamentalist, totalitarian or system oriented. The value based approach focuses on basic values, traditions and the Universal human rights, aiming at preserving and protecting these ideals. Aspiring this we must constantly accept the needs for reforms.
It is our systems and not our values that needs to be adapted through the changing times and new realities. By constant development, re-shaping and re-orienting of our approach, we believe it is possible to be ever more effective at realising the potentials of our societies.
This Social Policy Program focuses specially on sustaining welfare and pensions, providing employment especially for young people and immigrants. It focuses on common public health issues like increased mental health problems, obesity, physical passivity and alcohol and drug abuse. These problems often hit Europe’s young generations harder than any other groups. We also see severe social, ethnical and geographical diversities that are all intolerable. Therefore this program also presents our positions on how the fight against poverty and social exclusion can be better fought.
Chapter One Increasing opportunities - the value based approach
Chapter Two Reforming to secure welfare
Chapter Three Mobility, Education and Employment
Chapter Four Immigration and Integration
Chapter Five European Public Health
Chapter Six Fighting Poverty and Social Exclusion
CHAPTER ONE – INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES – THE VALUE BASED APPROACH
The realisation and protection of values and interests like human dignity; freedom and security; sustainability and prosperity are amongst the very core ambitions of our European Political Project. Moreover, the European Union (EU) is the strongest embodiment of such ambitions for our region, in our time. Not perfect - because no Man made system can be - but continuously we are striving for more freedoms – more opportunities.
Freedom values and human rights are taken for granted in our European societies. Despite our knowledge of vast chasms between different parts of both the European Union and the Wider Europe surrounding, we know of more wealth today than ever before. Still millions of people live their lives with boundaries like poverty, long-term unemployment, lack of treatment or support to illnesses or handicaps and racism or xenophobia in our surroundings. All this and many other factors contribute to social exclusion. Formal freedoms are not enjoyed because they are not transferable to real opportunities in our Europe. This is not tolerable.
It is YEPP’s view that the success of the European Project will be judged by it’s success in providing more freedoms and more opportunities to the many and not just the few. Much responsibility lies upon citizen’s alike and local, regional and national governments alike. Nevertheless, there is also clearly an opportunity to do more in co-operation, on the European level. YEPP also realise the irreplaceable role of civil society partners in all aspects of fighting poverty and social exclusion. No government or public based system alone can solve these problems.
With this European Social Policy Program YEPP, wants to promote policies that can deal more efficient with common threats and challenges. The role of the EU, and of the Commission in particular, is not to substitute national or local authorities in the design or implementation of social policy, but rather to transform that potential in strength, by giving direction to common efforts and by promoting the exchange of good practice across Europe.
YEPP only promotes the adoption of joint EU policy in areas where we believe this could help us better tackle our problems, then leaving it to the member states, regions, local communities or citizens alone. Ideas for sharing of best practices are also presented, since much of the action connected to social policy must be seen locally and nationally, and not Europe wide.
In the Social Area the new EU Constitutional Treaty represents progress by the recognition of combating social exclusion as on of the major objectives of the Union; by the integration of the Charter of Fundamental Rights; by the recognition of the role of civil dialogue; and by the adoption of clauses reinforcing policy co-operation in the areas of social inclusion, social protection, health and education, based on the experience of the open method of co-ordination.
The EU is truly a social project based on common values and freedoms and rights. It encompasses social justice, solidarity, social cohesion – and even beyond this it is about embracing high living standards, high levels of employment and social protection, improved working conditions, the promotion of social dialogue, equality between women and men and the combating of discrimination. All these elements are an important part of the “acquis communitaire”.
Taking values, rights and freedoms for granted can easily lead us into forgetting that these could be lost. However, we are not going to forget. For YEPP’s fundament will always be to hold on to the Freedom Values: The citizen’s freedom, the families’ freedom, and the freedom of enterprise, the freedom of communities and the freedom of nations. These are the true European Freedoms, and our concern is to ensure the translation of these freedoms into real European Opportunities for all citizens.
CHAPTER TWO: REFORMING TO SECURE WELFARE
It is foreseeable that over the next few decades the fall in the population and the overall ageing of society will be accompanied, above all, by a reduction in the proportion of the population in work.
Young people will no longer be able to rely on older people, but older people will depend increasingly on young people. Therefore the older generations must also have an interest in ensuring that young people can cope with the burdens placed on them by demographic developments. We need young and old to work together for the future in a spirit of partnership.
Older people are gaining ever-greater potential to influence in society in the course of this demographic transformation. By contrast, the concerns of subsequent generations are often given insufficient consideration, for instance when it comes to public debt, education and the pension system. Inevitably, less account is taken of the interests of the younger generation of voters who will be most affected by the parliamentary and government decisions being taken today and their long-term consequences.
In order to raise awareness of intergenerational justice and the consequences of decisions for future generations in the legislative process, YEPP is calling for the introduction of a generation account. This is a procedure that is added to the law making process that will show the medium and long-term different kind of effects of policy decisions. Every item of expenditure that implies an increase in public debt should be examined, justified and explained. The generation account should become a basic part of politics in the EU and all its member states. This would shift the long-term consequences of current decisions to the centre of attention. However, the generation account is only an instrument that can examine goals that have been set or be used to define goals. Drawing up generation accounts alone will not improve policy. It will merely make it more transparent. Nevertheless, this would force politicians to think long term.
Children are the key to Europe’s future. Future generations will form a work force whose productivity is supposed to economically secure the later years of the strongly growing proportion of retired citizens. Undoubtedly, the necessary economic and social policy reforms can still offset some of the problems caused by the ageing and shrinking of the European population over the short and medium term, but they will not overcome these difficulties over the long term. One of the most important possibilities to challenge the future is that more children will be born in Europe.
In accordance with our basic principles, children must be recognised as valuable by our society. If people have the willingness to have children, bring them up, and care intensively for their welfare and prepare for their journey through life they need to have social and political recognition. This requires a clear commitment from politicians to the social model of the family and belief in the younger generation’s responsibility for the future of our society. The decision to have children must therefore never put people at risk of poverty. Every euro invested in favour of families with children is an investment in the future of Europe. The taxation and social welfare system should generously reflect the burden placed on families of raising children, and the value these children will add to society in future generations.
YEPP recognizes that family policy is a crucial pillar of social policy and a means of safeguarding our future as well. The family is the nucleus of social life. The family passes on values, promotes social skills, creates the foundations for democratic consciousness and so contributes a great deal to the development of our children into responsible members of our polity.
YEPP wants that people can combine family and career. Particularly at a time when we face a foreseeable lack of qualified workers, conditions need to be created under which parents no longer have to make a decision between career and children, but it is possible to combine both.
Because of the demographic developments taking place, Europe needs systems of provision for old age, to which the following principles should apply. These systems:
• Should include all groups in society comprehensively.
• Should cover the risk of poverty in old age for all in future.
• Must offer strong incentives for people to provide for themselves.
• Must be organised in a spirit of solidarity and reflect the contributions paid in.
• Must be conductive to economic growth.
• Allow people to continue in the workplace as long as they feel able to contribute, irrespective of old age. We do not see old age as a barrier to work and propose the ending of mandatory retirement ages.
YEPP would like people’s personal responsibility to be strengthened. Social security systems must be limited to assistance that is really necessary. Claims on the wider community must remain at a low level. Where possible, we should develop ways of helping people to help themselves.
To a considerable extent, we should provide for our old age based on capital-funded private pension schemes. Our pensions will therefore be linked to the contributions paid in. This will give the individual the ability to determine for themselves the level of their provision for old age. By setting a low general burden of deductions, the state will place its citizens in a position to assume greater personal responsibility.
Because of the increasing proportion of older people in society strongly rising levels of expenditure in the field of social security will, if the institutional framework remains unchanged, also make it more difficult for private households to build up savings, something people do for the most part in the second half of their working lifetime. If this happens, an increase in the average propensity to consume is not to be expected, as this is highest in the phase after people establish a household and start a family. The general propensity to consume might even fall if those in work lose trust in the state pension system.
In order to preserve the financial scope for consumption and the formation of savings throughout Europe in future, the volume of social transfer benefits must be limited and the long-term formation of savings for old age guaranteed. Reducing the burden on the working population by using returns on the capital market and expanding the capital stock will result in growth effects that will make it easier to cope with the strains imposed by the ageing of the population.
The pensions for which people will be personally responsible will be supplemented by a guaranteed benefit. This guaranteed benefit will secure the minimum people need to live on in old age. Depending on the contributions paid in; the level of benefit will range from a guaranteed subsistence income to a capped maximum sum. These guaranteed benefits are to be funded from the income of all citizens.
For YEPP, personal responsibility, sustainability and neighbourly care are the key points as how we can better live in our common future. We want to demonstrate that the younger generation is prepared to shape its own future, to put forward its own ideas and to work for their implementation. We are prepared to take on the necessary responsibility. We will do our bit to ensure that our future society is one worth living in.
CHAPTER THREE: MOBILITY, EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT
Mobility, education and employment
Employment and education are key factors affecting people’s living standards. The value of participation through being employed or a self made entrepreneur, or in other way being allowed to take part in constructive activities, is also essential to all citizens feeling of appreciation. Agendas for social inclusion cannot avoid facilitation of active participation.
Lack of competence and skills are identified as the main obstacles – or so-called “minus factors” – for the unemployed. Educational and programs for training of skills, as well as livelong maintenance of ones competence, are thus of vital importance to welfare policy. Full employment is not the most important for all those excluded, but rather the duty and opportunity to active and constructive participation as responsible and committed citizens.
YEPP believe that it is of special interest to increase the participation of women and senior citizens, as well as unemployed youth and immigrants. Increased mobility is the most effective value added by the EU to these agendas and interests. It is of direct relevance to all citizens and the well being of our common social and economical development.
Free mobility of goods, services, capital and people is a founding principle of the European Union. In particular the mobility of people is essential for breaking down barriers between Europeans. This will enable us to live in a more tolerant, harmonized and effective society.
Through opening up the member countries and letting people with other nationalities backgrounds and cultures the acceptance and the understanding for what is unknown or experienced as different increases. YEPP believes that educational mobility will influence the integration positively.
Related to the historical enlargement of the union, May 1st 2004, it is important to state that the four freedoms, including the freedom for free mobility for the people have to be valid for all member countries. There should be no periods of transition hindering people from one or more countries to be full worthy members of the European Union. This must also be the principle for upcoming future enlargements.
While working for securing the free mobility within the union it is also of great importance to make sure that we do not only open up the borders between our countries. It is also important that the same kind of barriers, which are removed inside the union, will not be built up around the union. Open borders are not only important inside the union it is also essential to tare down barriers around the union. YEPP does not want a fortress Europe.
Education is a key for economic growth, human development, social integration and prosperity. Therefore access to the educational and training systems should be ensured for all young Europeans. The European Union have this far had successful co-operation within the education area and there are many young Europeans who have taken the chance to study at a school or a university in another European country than where the live. The existing programmes, such as Erasmus, Socrates; Leonardo da Vinci and others must continue and be further developed. Some of these programmes should be integrated to the Eastern European Region and should be a strong bridge between young people outside and inside the European Union. YEPP underlines that the Bologna process is leading in modernizing and reforming educational Europe.
YEPP strongly believes that investments in education lead to a more dynamic and competitive Europe. To be a competitive and dynamic region on the global market it is important to prioritise education and research so that the European citizens are highly educated and well qualified. The European Union should encourage co-operation and make it easier to move between educational operators, research institutions and business corporations. It is urgent to strengthen the quality of education on European universities, because of the poor position in relation to the American and Asian universities.
In education like in other areas it is important that the idea of mobility is fulfilled. The valuation of grades and qualifications between different countries must be simplified. We must also work for a development where education from different countries is more negotiable in others. Therefore YEPP calls for an European student card accepted in all member states and a reduction of the bureaucratical barriers.
Education supports social integration. Exchange through educational, social and cultural programmes will lead to a more integrated Europe. Important is to develop a stage programme for more young people and to limit the mass high education to prevent youth unemployment. Also learning foreign languages can contribute to a Europe in which integration through education is centralised.
The labour market is based up on freedom. The possibilities for people to work anywhere in the region and the advantages for employers to recruit new workers from a larger group of people are positive for the future of Europe. Therefore YEPP calls for a labour market with higher flexibility all over Europe. We strongly believe in the right for all citizens to seek employment and work wherever they like within the Union.
To make the free mobility on the labour market successful some changes by the individual member states in order to create a more flexible market are demanded. Also the taxes on labour must be reduced. Given that the basic rules and regulations on the labour market are a national competence, it is our opinion that so called sympathetic measures or strikes by trade unions should not be allowed cross boarders. Neither do we believe that collective agreements should be made on the European level.
Through the efforts to create a single market some difficulties and problems have occurred. This is problems that occur when the division of responsibility is unclear and can and has to be sorted out. Among the problems that have been discovered are rules connected to compensation by unemployment and the varying rules for pensions in different countries.
A functional enterprise labour market is essential. No job opportunities will be created without progressive and growing companies. Therefore these factors are crucial for economic growth and welfare. Employment will always be a key to participation and integration.
CHAPTER FOUR: IMMIGRATION AND INTEGRATION
The nations of Europe have had widely different experiences of immigration and integration. Some nations have decades of experience in these areas, while for others this is a new phenomenon. Recognition of these differences are essential for dealing with the current challenges presented in this area.
Despite their different backgrounds and status, immigrants are often mixed together and labelled as a problem. This is far from accurate and it does not help solving the strains that mass immigration causes in Europe today.
Immigration and asylum policies must address both the fundamental human rights of those in need on protection, the demands of the European labour markets and the capabilities of the European societies to successful integration. Beyond the necessary differentiation between the reasons for immigration, as they are laid out in YEPP’s Main Political Program (The Hague 2003) and EPP’s Action Program (2004-2009), Europe faces a tremendous challenge that can only be handled efficiently if the member nations act coherently. YEPP therefore wants Europe to reform its asylum and immigration policies.
Immigration helps fill important gaps in the European labour market. Moreover, reports from the European Commission and Eurostat show that even a doubling of immigration rates and simultaneously doubling fertility rates will not, on their own, secure sustainable labour markets and pension systems. It is therefore evident that we need radical reform, with a special focus on increased participation for women and older workers if we are to sustain our welfare. In any case trying to present immigration as a threat to our welfare is totally against all good knowledge.
Integration is a dual process. The governments have to be a good host and create a climate of tolerance, while people have the responsibility to become an active participant in the society.
Refugees and job-seeking immigrants should be encouraged to build their future in Europe through their own efforts. Integration must be a domestic task for the member states. However, it is crucial to ensure coherent procedures in dealing with immigrants. Given the free and open market of our Union, it is important that member states reform their economic and social policy so as to prevent inequalities in the treatment of immigration between states.
Europe’s wealth is based on equal rights and security given to all. Immigrants must be ensured the same rights once their status is defined. It is especially important to reduce the unemployment among immigrants in order to ensure legal working status and to promote social integration. If Europe rise to the challenge and co-operate in better management of immigration this will enrich and strengthen our communities. If Europe fails to do so, the results might be even more social division.
It is important that immigrants are give the tools to fully participate in the social and economic life of their new homes. Language education and opportunities to work experience is urgent. Such programs should be mandatory for all refugees and persons granted on humanitarian protection, and for family members reunited with them. Main objectives should be to provide basic skills in local language, insight into their new society and knowledge about the rules and laws, and preparation for employment, self-employment or further education. One of the most effective means of integration is participation in social life and employment. Allowing people to work and thereby provide for themselves is the very a basis of YEPP's appreciation.
Asylum applications should be processed rapidly, in order to clarify the status of asylum seekers as soon as possible. Rapid settlement of refugees and asylum seekers is also important to prevent them living in ghettos or ending up the street.
Special efforts must be taken to clarify the status of 100.000s illegal immigrants in many member countries.
CHAPTER FIVE: EUROPEAN PUBLIC HEALTH
Looking at the living conditions of all Europeans it is clear that health must be seen as a key indicator to social development and welfare. Together with education and income, health constitutes the very basis of people’s freedoms and opportunities. We therefore want to address health, and especially broad-based public health, as an issue relevant to European Social Integration. YEPP also see that several trends related to public health compose an overall set of European challenges that could be better managed if addressed at a European level. The EU has a role to play in protecting and promoting public health interests and in ensuring proper consumer protection.
The youth ages are times when lifestyles are chosen and set, often with strong permanence for the rest of the life. Early interventions that can prevent unhealthy or risky habits might bring much better success to the overall public health agenda than repairs of lifestyle related diseases. YEPP therefore calls for a special youth dimension to the local, national and European public health strategies.
Personal and Public Responsibilities
All citizens capable of so hold in YEPP’s opinion a personal responsibility to take care of their mental and physical health. All national governments carry the role of ensuring equal access to sufficient health services for all citizens. Being part of the universal human rights also protects these rights.
Lack of exercise and unhealthy nutrition and consumption of alcohol and tobacco can lead to health problems, while increased physical activity, a healthy intake of foods and a reduced use of intoxicants will give less lifestyle-related illnesses. In fact these are the major causes to health problems all over Europe. The increasing number of psychiatric illnesses also demands more attention to better mastering of life, early intervention and prevention of stress and other factors influencing both physical and psychiatric health.
The European Union should work for the promotion of healthy ways of living and the prevention of physical and psychiatric illnesses, for example through initiating and supporting informational work. This requires co-operation between multiple sectors and with institutions both at the local, national and international level, such as employer organisations and health care institutions.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Strong voices are raised for international laws about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), led by the expectations from the society. To be able to introduce CSR in corporate culture, changes in decision-making, mentality, values and behaviour are needed. To tune corporate culture on to CSR-agenda can also be a way of increasing the turnover and thereby raise the profit of companies. It is important that this is seen in the interest of the shareowners. Because the concept of CSR depends on the free will of the companies. To reach the demands for CSR companies has to clearly define their responsibility and explain how to take social responsibility expected by the society.
Unfortunately there is too often a large scepticism against the market and the interest of profit due to certain, political interpretations of an alleged conflict between profitability and the interest of society. The demands from some of the promoters of CSR are also too often linked to a strange view of how market economy functions. The free, private initiative and market economy are important for reaching social development and a better environment.
Forcing companies to adopt a lot of regulations may often effect the market in a negative way. We need to recognise that companies can also have other interests than only generating profits. CSR can also be a competitive advantage for many companies. Not implementing CSR could therefore give companies a bad reputation leading to decreasing of profits. Hence CSR can and should be seen as good business.
It is not strange that many politicians are in favour of CSR. The fact is that an implementation could lead to companies taking on responsibilities that today citizens and corporations already pay taxes for. Short comings of politicians and government should not be handed over to the companies, at least not if this isn’t due to the decision that a certain duty rather belongs in the private and not the public sphere.
Since the well functioning of our common market is both a common interest and a driving force in European co-operation YEPP calls for more social responsibility from the business community. This is especially important for enterprises involved in the production, export, import and distribution of substances with potential health consequences related to their products.
• YEPP states that the concept of CSR depends on the free will of the companies.
• YEPP wants to safeguard and expand the European traditions of greater transparency and consumer protection. This is often a forceful tool to empower citizens to be their own “doctors and health care takers”.
• YEPP also believes that the EU should take initiatives in developing trustworthy and standardised certification arrangements for the nutrition level of food products, as to enable consumers to exercise consumer power and actively choose healthy food.
Combating abuse of alcohol and drugs
Abuse and addiction of alcohol and drugs represent one of Europe’s greatest social problems. Alcohol and drug problems intensify and cause many other serious social problems like crime, unsafe environments for children, poverty, marital problems, vandalism, accidents etc. Such problems can be found in all social layers and social settings. A reduction in alcohol- and drug-related problems will therefore be beneficial in several areas, both for the individual in particular and for society at large.
• YEPP calls upon all the commercial businesses involved in the trade of alcohol and legal drugs to take on shared responsibility and help prevent the potential negative effects of their products.
• YEPP defends the freedom to exercise national pricing and availability policies to regulate the distribution of alcohol and legal drugs.
• YEPP welcomes an open debate about regulations of the commercial promotion of items such as alcohol, pharmaceuticals and tobacco, due to the severe public health risks attached to wrong or high level consumption of these substances.
Mental health has often been neglected in previous health policies. However, the promotion of psychiatric health is as important as of physical health. The establishment of more cross-sector approaches on education, health prevention and employment must be encouraged. Special attention should be paid to improving the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of psychiatric illnesses, as this is often has a large relevance for the youth in particular. Stronger focus on fighting drugs and improving treatment programs must also be addressed. These are issues of major importance for too many youth in Europe.
The economic burden of mental health conditions and their impact on the labour force cannot be underestimated. In the employment field, evidence shows that among the disabled population, people suffering from mental illness have the lowest participation rate in the labour market. Efforts to bring mental health issues into the mainstream of a health-conscious society must be pursued. Member States must provide information on the most effective treatments and continue actions initiated to combat stigma and social exclusion against people suffering from mental disorders.
Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, is a common health problem among young people in Europe, especially young girls. This is a problem which is mainly the responsibility of the member states, but where regional measures can be beneficial. YEPP calls for united action within the EU to combat eating disorders, through information programs targeted towards schools and youth organisations.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights
The need to promote secure sex life and safer pregnancies is highly relevant to the overall social and economic development in Europe. The responsibility for issues related to sexual and reproductive health concerning prevention, service delivery and treatment rests up on local and national governments. However the promotion of openness and sharing of knowledge and good practises makes European focus relevant.
Even if the educational and health care systems in most European countries provide for information, relevant services and reasonably good access to efficient means of prevention there are several challenges to the sexual health in Europe. The relevance to fertility, reproduction and over all welfare in society depends on an open and knowledge-based handling of sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. This is especially true when talking about the health and welfare of young people.
The spreading of sexually transmittable diseases (STD) combined with unwanted pregnancies and abortions highlights the link between youth and sexual health. The teenagers are a period in life where health risks can be quite high and the vulnerability rather constant. Therefore access to relevant information and knowledge about the proper use of contraceptives, and promotion of good attitudes to sexuality, and especially girls rights, alongside with efficient and high quality services for counselling or treatment is crucial. Families, schools and society based programs are important to help young people obtain the information, services and skills that they need to protect their own sexual and reproductive health.
As a specific concern YEPP acknowledges that young people in average experience insecurity and vulnerability. connected to their own and other people’s sexuality. For all young homosexuals these problems are a special concern.
• YEPP believes that the best method of reducing the numbers of abortions is by avoiding unwanted pregnancies. This demands better access to contraceptives, and knowledge of their proper use.
• YEPP underlines that abortion never is to be promoted as a method of family planning. Decisions about access to abortion services rest upon the national legislators.
• YEPP believes that more needs to be done to develop and secure access to efficient and cheap methods of prevention, especially such that can be controlled by women themselves. Influencing Men’s attitudes to women in general and their knowledge about sexuality and reproductive health are also important.
• YEPP believes that all individuals should be accepted and have the same human rights, independent of how they choose to live their lives. YEPP also believes that more needs to be done to fight the stigma related to homosexuality, transsexuality and gay and lesbian lifestyles.
A single European market for health care
The joint expertise and capacity of the countries within the EU and the EEA could be much better utilised. Still much remains before we can see a single market of health care in Europe. For this to be accomplished, the liberalisation and harmonisation of medical and nursing registration across the Union must be furthered as to increase labour flexibility and make a reality of freedom of movement for health care professionals. Medicines should be licensed for use across the Union, unless their use is prohibited in a certain member state.
As European integration continues, more and more Europeans will travel from one Member State to receive health care. It is important that this is managed in such as way that European can get the best health care in any part of the Union, but also ensures that no member states are fiscally disadvantaged by such movements.
Modernizing and computerizing medical records and communication is vital in establishing a common health market. The work of medical practitioners at all levels is becoming more information intensive as computer applications are more widely used. Further development of eHealth offers the potential to reduce administrative costs, to deliver health care services at a distance and to avoid unnecessary duplicate examinations. Standardized electronic health cards, health information networks and health services on-line with the respect of data protection and privacy should be implemented across the Union.
All EU citizens must be ensured access to a certain minimum quality of health care, wherever they live within the European Union. The treatment must build on respect for the individual and for human value. Patients shall not be illegitimately discriminated against, on the bases of gender, race, sexual orientation or national origin. The benefit of the individual patient and not the economic profit must be the focus of public health policies.
• YEPP is calling for the establishment of a European patient “bill of rights”. This bill must ensure all EU citizens minimum treatment in any member state.
• YEPP wants standard measurements of the results and quality of medical institutions across Europe, so that patients can be aided in choosing institutions that can offer them the best treatment, thus encouraging institutions to improve their quality.
• YEPP support the introduction of a standard information technology system in health services across the Union. A smart ‘health services card’ for all EU citizens should also be introduced.
CHAPTER SIX: FIGHTING POVERTY AND SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Defining poverty is a disputed topic and indicators used to measure poverty are many. In our policies YEPP includes poverty in the larger concept of Social Exclusion, again being part of a whole range of problems related to living conditions and different kinds of exclusion. Still, despite theoretical discussions and different varieties throughout the EU, the EEA or even Wider Europe, it is evident that we face some challenges all over Europe. Demographic changes put public finances under pressure. A tougher labour markets and competence mismatch excludes more and more people. Mass immigration – especially illegal or unregistered – creates informal, “black” markets.
We also face many of the same problems related to especially vulnerable groups such as lone parents, large families, older women living alone, physically or mentally disabled people and certain ethnical minorities like the Rom. We also share the problems and challenges related to groups at extreme risk such as alcohol and drug addicts and their families – especially their children. The same goes for women and children being victims of trafficking – cross border or inter-state.
The European Union in 1975 adopted a definition of poverty whereby individuals or households were recognised as poor if their economic recourses are so small that they are excluded from the minimum acceptable lifestyle in the respective member states. Since 1998 the Eurostat has used 60 percent of median income as their preferred statistical limit of poverty. The OECD normally draws the line at 50 percent. In any case the two latter seldom explain the actual situation of every person with income lower than these two percentage lines.
The annual Social Situation Report, (published since 2000) from the European Commission and Eurostat, identify an interdependence of three key components – education, income and health. All three are closely linked to periodically or permanent exclusion, or loss of freedoms and opportunities in life, that can be defined as poverty.
Looking closer at poverty as a situation where a person, permanently or periodically, have to live without access or opportunity to exercise his or her rights could also help identify what we need to address with policies aiming at fighting poverty and social exclusion.
YEPP supports a comprehensive view on the fight against poverty and other forms of social exclusion. This is also true to the Lisbon goals, aiming at creating a more dynamic and prosperous Europe at the service of all its citizens. Development of sustainable economies and social welfare for all must go hand by hand. In this respect, YEPP recognises social welfare policy and social cohesion as a productive tool and not simply an item of expenditure.
To effectively address the various social problems and poverty trends and situations, current services and benefits must be better tailored to the people at risk. Our policies must be knowledge-based, and more investments should be provided for relevant research. YEPP also calls for systematic reviews of the functioning of our welfare systems. This means full over haul, in many countries, of public employment services, social security services and other kinds of social assistance services.
Improving living conditions of the most vulnerable people demands a strategic approach and concrete actions. First of all these actions must come locally and nationally. YEPP therefore call upon all members to take full account of those who are worse-off and in greater need of solidarity when setting their budget priorities, including the EU Structural Funds.
The importance of National Action Plans (NAPs) to fight poverty in all EU, EEA and the Wider Europe Countries should also be underlined. For the latter the World Bank related concept of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) could be more relevant as tools. YEPP believes that increased political and economical attention and support must be shown, to help promote economic, social and democratic development in these new neighbouring countries. For the authorities in these countries they must adopt more pro-poor policies, and stronger emphasis be put on fighting corruption and the promotion of good governance and human rights.
A better articulation between economic, employment and social policies is essential to ensure that the modernisation of the economy goes hand in hand with the strategies to fight poverty. Raising awareness of both the larger public and the decision-makers to this regard is particularly important.
Adopted by the YEPP Council, in Oslo, 9 October 2004
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"One of the most important possibilities to challenge the future is that more children will be born in Europe".
Brilliant, that's really good, the same people who complain about there being too many people on the planet, think there aren't enough tax paying babies in Europe.
Why don't you do posters?
"Your fatherland needs babies!".
It just goes to show how meaningless the phrase "a social Europe", a slogan loved by certain people on the left, really is.
John, your article is not a waste of space - can you waste space on indymedia? However it is very long. I confess I basically scrolled down through it. However the parts on education and "psychiatric health" were congenial to me. Is there any chance that you would expand on Young Fine Gael policies in these two areas?