SOLIDAR Weekly Round Up 22-04-2016
School of democracy?
22 April 2016
Whilst hundreds of young people from 34 countries participate in the school of democracy organised by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D Group) in Reggio Emilia, the birthplace of the Italian Republic, democracy itself – for most of us the best system for governing society – is at risk of being undermined all over the world, even within Europe. In Central and Eastern Europe some of the leaders want the Visegrad group to become the new power centre in Europe as a regional power. It would be a “great” coalition of those who, like in Poland, undermine the constitution and act like the former communist leaders, just with another ideology, or Orban in Hungary who has installed an authoritarian regime yet continues to be part of the EPP and is even received by a “great European” like the former German chancellor Kohl. Then there is the Prime Minister of Slovakia who has campaigned against migrants and paved the way for the rise of the extreme right. In the South, the new Croatian government takes lessons from the afore-mentioned and has paved the way for fascist nostalgia. To this list we can add amongst others the deplorable attempt to impeach the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Economic and media power is used by her enemies who want to roll back democratic progress, and are anything but clean democrats. It is a warning sign of what could lie ahead for the Latin-American continent.
Where is Europe in all this? The values of the Europe we defend, the rule of law we call for? Will they be sanctioned for the sake of preventing a break away? There is no doubt that at this stage we are confronted with the mistakes made during the accession negotiations. Market rules are not necessarily democratic rules and this seems to be the moment for some kind of pay back – and roll back. It is about European credibility, it is about the future of the European project that is more and more threatened. Seeing this threat is a first step, acting for change to prevent it a necessity. The roll back of democratic achievements, denial of social, economic, cultural and human rights is the next step resulting in upsurge of nationalistic sentiments. As Francois Mittérand said: “Nationalism leads to war”. It is like sailing: it is better to anticipate and change course before the wind changes. And there are winds of change, not like in 1989, unfortunately, but in the other direction!
Together for Social Europe
Mediterranean Sea becomes a deadly sea again: 400 people reported drowned
18 April 2016
On 18 April the media reported on the tragic news that more than 400 people have drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea while they tried to get to Europe from Egypt. The majority of the victims, carried in four very badly equipped boats, are reported to be originally from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
According to the latest available figures (IOM) a total of 177,207 migrants have arrived in Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Spain since the beginning of 2016. 732 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the year, of which 352 took the central Mediterranean route to Italy.
SOLIDAR at the SABIR festival: join us in Pozzallo to build ‘Mediterranean alternatives’ to European migration and integration policies
21 April 2016
The latest tragic news that another 400 people have died is irrefutable proof that the Mediterranean Sea is still a very dangerous migration route. The situation is likely to worsen after the closure of the Balkan route, and the EU needs to reflect on the blatant failure of its migration and integration policies. Building new walls does not stop migration flows, it simply increases people’s vulnerability and insecurity. Likewise, encouraging fear and intolerance in European communities will only serve to break apart social cohesion. We need to develop alternatives, based on solidarity and human rights.
The SABIR Festival of Mediterranean Cultures organised by our Italian member ARCI represents an excellent opportunity to foster debate on this issue among members of African and European civil society, social partners, national politicians and members of the European Parliament. After a first edition in Lampedusa in October 2014, the second edition of the Sabir Festival will take place from 12 to 15 May 2016 in Pozzallo, another very symbolic venue as it represents a cultural crossroads on the doorsteps of Europe.
Building Learning Societies
Joint meeting at the European Parliament to discuss the upcoming New Skills Agenda and how it can contribute to social inclusion and integration
21 April 2016
Participation in lifelong learning, and therefore the development of skills and competences, is crucial as it has an impact on combating social exclusion by offering and creating opportunities for everybody. For the most disadvantaged (those who are far from formal education and have a weak income position, young adults who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and school dropouts), the gap between where they stand and the rest of society is simply too vast. A stronger focus on supporting not only access to the labour market, but also personal empowerment is needed through the development of transversal skills, competences and knowledge throughout people’s lives.
As the European Commission prepares for the launch of the New Skills Agenda in May 2016, Commissioners Thyssen (Employment, Social Affairs and Skills) and Navracsics (Education and Culture) took part in an exchange of views at the European Parliament with MEPs from the CULT and EMPL committees on 18 April. This joint meeting focused on the package of proposals foreseen for the upcoming New Skills Agenda and the priorities of the 2016 Commission.
The SOLIDAR Foundation welcomes the first propositions of the New Skills Agenda. It is extremely important to ensure that everyone has equal access to skills, at an early stage and throughout life, as it is a way to promote social justice and social inclusion. By ensuring that no one is left out, we contribute to a fairer and more inclusive society. Against this background, the SOLIDAR Foundation would like to stress that it is particularly urgent to support vulnerable groups in particular in accessing basic and/or high end skills, as it is likely that they encounter more difficulties (financial, material, social and/or cultural difficulties) when trying to acquire them. We believe that by providing soft skills (social, civic and intercultural) we create spaces for healthy, peaceful coexistence that enable people to meet the challenges of adult life in the best possible conditions. The development of social, civic and intercultural competences need to take priority in education agendas, not only within formal education settings but should also be made available for other learners through non-formal and informal learning.
Organising International Solidarity
SOLIDAR ENP up close – EU-Tunisia association council: ENP implementation should be about socio-economic rights first!
20 April 2016
On 18 April 2016, the EU-Tunisia Association Council reiterated the key priorities of political and economic cooperation between the European Union and Tunisia in the context of the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The official joint communication of VP/HR Federica Mogherini, and the Tunisian Minister for Foreign Affairs Khemaies Jhinaoui, re-emphasises the key cooperation priorities including the fight against terrorism, support for socio-economic reforms and the negotiation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), and support for the national tripartite dialogue.
In detail, this Association Council officially kicked off the first round of negotiations for a DCFTA with Tunisia after the Motion for a Resolution on the opening of negotiations for a EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement. In the context of the ENP implementation, SOLIDAR calls for the ENP to promote the progressive realisation of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs), and notes that a DCFTA should consider the following issues:
How to mainstream social protection in the European Development Fund’s programmes? Civil society from Haiti tells us how
21 April 2016
How can EU programmes help achieve social protection and decent work? Our members and partners in Haiti tell us how.
The EU National Indicative Programme should
- Have a stronger focus on access to quality essential services offered free of charge.
- Provide support to the government’s plan of extending social insurance to all workers, including the self-employed and informal sector workers. At the same time, the EU should support the development of a comprehensive financing plan which clearly outlines different funding sources and budgets for the different aspects of the social protection floor.
- Focus on capacity building and other support to civil society, to ensure that they can play their role in monitoring government initiatives in social protection and hold service providers accountable
- Support the full participation of civil society actors in the development of the new national social protection policy to ensure that all voices are heard and included.