The Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union (COFACE) has more than 50 member organisations across the Europe. For over 50 years, COFACE has been working to give a voice to European families and to improve family-related policies in the EU. To this end, a number of events and initiatives are being undertaken by COFACE around the International Day of Families on the 15thof May, 2012. These activities are in support of a proposed European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life in 2014 and as part of the current (2012) European Year of Active Aging and Solidarity between Generations.
Highlighting the family dimension of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities
On the occasion of the United Nation’s International Day of Families, on the 15th of May 2012, COFACE organised an event in the European Parliament to highlight family carers, the challenges they face and the roles of family organisations in addressing these challenges. The event was organised under the auspices of Hungarian Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Ádám Kósa.
In addition to the event, the book The family dimension of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities was presented. This book, co-written by COFACE’s members, aims to highlight the family dimension of the Convention and contribute to its dissemination. It supports 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. It also aims to empower European citizens living with disabilities and their families.
Following on from this event, the next COFACE event will be about “Reconciling Work and Care responsibilities: a challenge for family carers in Europe”. This will be held from 2-5pm on 26 June, 2012, at the European Parliament in Brussels. The event will bring together speakers from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), social partners, European Institutions and family carers, who will speak in three panels. It will be hosted by MEP Marian Harkin, who will formally launch recommendations developed within the Grundtvig Learning Partnership project. The event is also part of COFACE’s current focus of efforts towards the designation of 2014 as the European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life.
Call for a European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life in 2014
In 2014, the United Nations will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the International Year of the Family. COFACE is calling for 2014 to be the European Year for Reconciling Work and Family Life in order to recognise and celebrate the significant role played by European families. The role of young people as the future of Europe should be highlighted, both as members of the workforce and as parents of the next generation. Reconciling work and family life will make it easier for families to have more than one breadwinner, reducing the risk of poverty, and allowing them to better provide education and future possibilities for their children.
This proposed focus should build on the achievements and policy objectives of previous European Years, starting with the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in 2010. COFACE would like to assume the leadership role for the Civil Society organisations that would take part in the year. As part of this effort, the COFACE blog will provide information about activities and progress being made in this area.
Call for the European Commission to safeguard the family life of migrants and refugees
On the International Day of Families, the 15th of May, 2012, twenty European NGOs, including COFACE, issued a call for the European Commission (EC) and EU Member States (MS) to guarantee the effective right to family life and family reunification for all migrants and beneficiaries of international protection. MS’ are obliged to ensure the proper implementation of the EU Family Reunification Directive. However, the group of NGOs point out that a growing number are infringing the Directive’s minimum standards and calls for the EC to update its 2008 evaluation of MS compliance and to start infringement procedures against those MS found to be in non-compliance with the Directive. The group believes that the Directive provides the right objectives and minimum standards and supports more favourable practices; it should not be used to apply more restrictive family reunification policies.
The group of NGOs identifies common issues that should be addressed in interpretative guidelines for MS regarding the EU Family Reunification Directive. In particular, the group calls on MS and the EC to address issues regarding: practical obstacles to family reunification; waiting periods and length of procedures; evaluating the proportionality and accessibility of integration measures; equality and proportionality in material or housing conditions; comparable rules for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and refugees; the minimum age limit for spouses; forced marriages; the definition of the family members and of the dependent relatives entitled to family reunification, and access to independent residence permits.
Families help promote active ageing and solidarity between generations
In a press release on the 15th of May 2012, AGE Platform Europe and COFACE highlight the important contribution of older people to society through their roles in families as grandparents, parents, and informal carers. Grandparents ease the burden of care of parents by supporting grandchildren’s development and education, as well as parents’ employment opportunities, and by providing financial support for parents. These older family members may also assume a carer role for other older adults. Families have an important role to play in promoting active ageing, independent living, and intergenerational solidarity. In addition, ensuring work-family balance, the theme of the 2012 Day of Families, needs to incorporate the promotion of intergenerational solidarity. COFACE and AGE Platform Europe reiterate the importance of considering diverse family needs throughout the European Year of Solidarity between the Generations when drafting policy.