LIBE lawmakers urge that more investments are needed to protect children

Covid-19 has a serious impact on poverty risk, right to education, mental health, violence and abuse, they say

Photo: EP Juan Fernando López Aguilar.

In a draft resolution, adopted this week, the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) emphasised that EU member countries should prioritise public investment in education, healthcare, housing, family support and childcare, making sure that these services reach all children.

Backed with 48 votes to 7 and 10 abstentions, the resolution points out that “a child is first and foremost a child, regardless of ethnic origin, gender, nationality or social and economic background, ability, migration or residence status”.

The European Parliament wholeheartedly supports the Commission’s endeavor to adopt a comprehensive Strategy on the rights of the child, said Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), LIBE Chair and rapporteur, remarking that it is fundamental that the Commission takes every step necessary to ensure that all children in Europe, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity or race are enabled to live, grow and develop in fully enjoyment of their rights and liberties.

It is of utmost importance that we join forces to make sure children are protected from ongoing and emerging threats, the rapporteur underscored.

MEPs also put the spotlight on the huge toll the Covid-19 crisis is having on children, further exacerbating their risk of poverty, severely affecting access to education, compromising their physical and mental health and increasing the danger of violence and abuse. MEPs urge the Commission to table, as announced, a legislative proposal to establish the European Child Guarantee in the first quarter of 2021.

Member States should take the necessary measures to guarantee the right of education for every child, prevent early school leaving and ensure gender-equitable access to inclusive education from early childhood, including for Romani children, children with disabilities and migrant children.

MEPs demanded that digital education should never permanently replace in-person learning and called age-appropriate information about sex and sexuality to be included in the school curriculum.

Lawmakers claimed that the situation of children in migration both within and outside the EU must improve. They put the accent on family reunification and adequate reception conditions, removing barriers to access basic services and integration measures. Member States should avoid detention of children and guarantee that unaccompanied minors benefit of legal representatives and guardians.

LIBE lawmakers are particularly worried about sexual abuse against children, which has increased due to the pandemic and the lockdown, while social services and protective institutions became highly inaccessible. So far 23 EU Member States have not yet implemented the 2011 directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

MEPs stressed that cooperation with law enforcement authorities and service providers is key concerning child sexual abuse online, and called on EU countries that have not yet done so to criminalise online grooming.

The resolution also demands for ending, in law and in practice, all child labour and for facilitating the return of European children detained abroad for association with armed groups (such as the Islamic State) to their country of origin. It urges as well for combatting all forms of violence and exploitation, including forced marriage, trafficking, torture, honour killing, female genital mutilation, incest, forced leaving of school and the use of children as soldiers.

The Chamber will vote on the non-legislative resolution during the next plenary session, scheduled for 8-11 March. The Commission is expected to present an updated EU strategy on Children’s Rights in the coming months.

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