Wednesday, November 21, 2007

EU: Marking UN Children's Day

"Give minors a voice" - Roberta Angelilli MEP

Nov 20, marked the UN's Universal Children's Day, a day inaugurated to promote and protect the rights of young people. Children make up one third of the world's population. As well as poverty and disease they can be at threat from human traffickers or can be conscripted as soldiers. To mark the day we spoke to Italian MEP Roberta Angelilli (UEN) who is drafting a Parliamentary report on proposals by the European Commission on children's rights.

In a Civil Liberties Committee public hearing in April, Ms Angelilli said any EU policy on children must be positive and not merely "against" things. It must "affirm the fundamental rights of children and young people". In this exclusive interview she elaborates on her views.

In your view, are European children’s lives getting better or worse compared to 30 years ago?

It is a difficult question. The general situation has improved even if in modern societies we experience degradation and poverty, even in Europe. For instance, two days ago in Italy a 3-4 year-old Roma baby got burned. He was living in a shanty town under absolutely unacceptable conditions. Around 20% of minors live below the poverty line. On the one hand, wealth has increased, on the other hand, there persists extreme marginalisation. For example, the risk of poverty increases for children who live in a one-parent family.

As the Parliament's rapporteur on the rights of the child, what should the key components of a policy be?

First, minors should participate in things that they are concerned with. We have to give minors a voice, making them protagonists and letting them express their views. Secondly, as we are doing already in Europe with women's rights, we should mainstream minors' rights into all EU policies.

How can Parliament help promoting the rights of children?

With this report we have created the basis for a legislative process; it is very important to recognize the rights of children and to codify them from a legal point of view. In this context, the new reformed Treaty will represent an important step, since it will provide a legal basis.

Since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, the Roma now constitute a very significant minority in the Union. You have been very active in Parliament asking questions related to the situation of Roma children. What measures would you like to see in place to address their situation?

We need to provide these children with the right to education, without which they are doomed to failure! This is because they will be either exploited, becoming marginalized adults, or in the worst cases they will fall into crime networks. We also need to provide them with proper sanitary and hygienic conditions. In my opinion, the key point is education, a view also shared by the UN and UNICEF. Education is the basis for children's future.

Initiated in 1954

The Universal Children's Day was introduced by the UN General Assembly in 1954 as a "day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children". Tuesday also marks the 18th anniversary of the UN convention on the rights of the child. The EU explicitly recognised children’s rights in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Report being drafted by Ms Angelilli will go to the Civil Liberties Committee on 18 December and before the full House in the Spring.

Source: European Parliament News