In the last two weeks, the Members of the European Parliament had the occasion to grill the new team of Commissioners-designate in a series of hearings aimed at evaluating whether they are fit for the job. Albeit the confusing and sometimes disappointing job titles of the new commissioners-designate (absence of expressions such as ‘education’, ‘social affairs’ which used to be there before, or ‘children’ which Eurochild had called for); it must be highlighted that a consistent number of Commissioners-designate have openly committed to protecting children’s rights if approved by the European Parliament. Here are the positive takeaways about the hearings of the most relevant Commissioners for Eurochild’s work:
Ms Dubravka Šuica, Commissioner-designate for Democracy and Demography:
- declared that children have been an utmost priority throughout all her career and that there is nothing more important than investing in children. For this reason, she will coordinate the EU Child Guarantee and a comprehensive child rights strategy
- pointed out that children’s protection is a pivotal part of her portfolio and that she will cooperate with the Commissioner-designate Schmit in order to address the childhood poverty issue
- is supportive of the Parliament’s position to allocate almost 6 billion EUR to finance the Child Guarantee through the European Social Fund Plus
Mr Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner-designate for Jobs:
- underlined that child poverty is one of the most critical challenges that the EU must address. For this reason, he committed to fight against poverty affecting children through “some kind of recommendation”
- committed to reinforce the youth guarantee and lead the work on the child guarantee – referring to them as legislative work part of the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights.
- committed to protect and strengthen families
- underlined the necessity to push for social investment in education and childcare
Ms Helena Dalli, Commissioner-designate for Equality:
- underlined the necessity to establish an affordable childcare system
- pointed out that in the case of domestic violence children’s safeguard must be a priority.
- highlighted the necessity to improve the parental leave system for fathers and mothers
- underlined that forced marriage and genital mutilation are two pivotal issues that must be addressed through the equality portfolio
- stated to be willing to cooperate with other Commissioners, and in particular with Ms Šuica, in order to address children’s rights in a comprehensive and holistic way.
Ms Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner-designate for Innovation and Youth:
- expressed her will to promote children’s rights in education
- mentioned the importance that sport and new technologies play in reaching a broader number of children
- committed to protecting all those young Europeans that are threatened by poverty and exclusion underlining that youth is the EU’s most beautiful asset
Mr Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President-designate for Protecting our European Way of Life:
- expressed his will to make sure that the European Social Fund + fosters social inclusions, supports the ones most in need and helps enhance labour mobility. The EU needs to equip European youth with the right skills to work in a changing world.
- committed to make the European Education Area a reality and incentivize the Member States to reform and modernize their education and learning system.
- stated that, in order to ensure that no child is left behind, the EU shall introduce a European Child Guarantee; children at risk of poverty or exclusion must have access to their rights.
- underlined that society must protect the more vulnerable. Schinas shall use its portfolio to promote a cross-cutting approach to inclusion and integration.
Nonetheless, not all Commission hopefuls gave an equally strong impression, and with many candidates there are outstanding questions of competence. With three Commissioner-designates being rejected by the European Parliament, it appears that we may have to wait longer for a new European Commission to take over the executive function of the EU and move forward on their proposals.