OUR EYE ON THE EU | February 2023

Social affairs – work in progress on skills & workers’ rights 

The Council has adopted a recommendation to ensure minimum income and boost social safety nets to combat poverty and social exclusion in the post-COVID-19 period. Although the power to decide on social policy is in the sole hands of EU countries, the Council can make recommendations. In this case, the aim is to push Member States to reduce inequalities for citizens across the EU in accessing social safety nets. 

The European Parliament (EP) has adopted its draft report on the European Year of Skills, an initiative starting on 9 May 2023. In the report, MEPs have expressed their position on the European Commission’s proposal. They called for fostering workers’ skills to match the needs of the job market. However, some important amendments try to shed light on the importance of taking into account also civic and life skills. These are crucial not only in contributing to professional development, but even more in encouraging active participation in democratic life. Inter Alia is currently working to raise this issue at EU level, and we will keep our network updated on our next steps. 

Civil rights – towards 2024 EP elections

Good news for democratic participation advocates! On 14 February, the EP Plenary adopted proposals on the electoral rights of EU citizens residing in another Member State, in relation to European and municipal elections. As the rapporteur Damian Boeselager from the Greens/EFA stated, “one beauty of the EU lies in the freedom to move and live anywhere, but too often our political rights end at the border, preventing us from being able to vote in European or local elections where we live”. Around 11 million Europeans residing in another Member State are waiting to exercise their electoral rights of EU citizens in European and local elections. Barriers to their participation must be removed before the next 2024 EP elections, as also urged by the Commissioner of Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová.

Meanwhile, negotiations to reform EU electoral law are being blocked in the Council, as Member States are not pushing to discuss and vote on this proposal. These reforms concern, among other things, the possibility of having a pan-European electoral campaign before the 2024 EP elections, and the creation of transnational lists, to elect 28 additional MEPs across the borders. 

Education & Training – towards new rules on learning mobility

NGOs have the right but also the duty to participate in the dialogue with EU institutions. The European Commission opened a public consultation with civil society on the future of learning mobility. Through this mechanism, the EC wants to assess the main barriers to learning mobility and discuss ways to address them with citizens. The aim is to update the EU Learning Mobility Framework, to allow students to move more easily across education systems in Europe, and to promote learning mobility as an opportunity for everyone.

If you are a youth worker, educator or learner, a sending or a receiving organisation for learning mobility, we encourage you to share your feedback here. You have until 3 May!

Youth – when participatory processes are made possible

The European Committee of the Regions, together with the European Youth Forum, has published the EU Charter on Youth and Democracy. It contains 49 concrete recommendations for European, national and sub-national levels to boost participation of young people in political life. Why is this document important? The process that led to its adoption followed a bottom-up approach, and it was conceived in the framework of the 2022 European Year of Youth. Young people from across the EU actively contributed to its drafting, through online participatory tools that allowed representatives of youth organisations, as well as young elected local and regional representatives to submit proposals and amendments. 

Rule of Law – where does Greece stand on media freedom?  

In the World Press Freedom Index, released in May 2022, Greece ranked at the last position among EU countries for press freedom. On 15 February, centre-left groups within the European Parliament scheduled a debate on the “erosion” of rule of law in the country, during the Plenary session in Strasbourg.

Pasok leader Androulakis (S&D) addressing MEPs on wiretapping, rule of law in Greece

As expected, the Greek government was attacked about the way that it is handling the wiretapping scandal that exploded last summer, where secret services spied on politicians, journalists and opposition leaders’ phones. Critiques were made also on the European People’s Party (EPP), the political group in the EP to which New Democracy belongs, on how it is not making an effort to take action on this issue. The major concern in Brussels is that Greece is showing an autocratic drift, following the path of Hungary and Poland, when it comes to the respect of human rights and freedoms. 

Migration – the EU’s love story with the externalisation of its borders

During a plenary debate with the Swedish Presidency of the Council and the President of the European Commission, MEPs presented their views on how to deal with the migratory challenges that Europe is facing. According to EU institutions, “returning migrants and asylum-seekers without the right to stay in the EU to their countries of origin or transit […] and introducing safe and legal pathways into Europe” are urgent security priorities. 

Heads of States and Governments reunited in Brussels (9 and 10 February) for a special meeting of the European Council. On the agenda: the economic situation in the EU; Ukraine; and migration. The EPP, the major right-wing party in the EP, to which the President of the European Commission belongs, tried to dictate the line, proposing an EU-funded project to build fences between Bulgaria and Turkey. Ursula Von der Leyen declared that the Commission “will not finance an infrastructure that keeps people out”. However, the building of walls in eastern Europe is an ongoing practice that has even intensified in the last few years (including in Poland, Hungary, Greece and even Bulgaria itself). Already in 2021, the EC’s Vice President, Margaritis Schinas, and Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva  Johansson were saying that “Physical barriers appear to be an effective border protection measure that serves the interest of the whole EU”.

ECI Ambassadors

As you may know, Inter Alia is Greece’s Ambassador for the European Citizens’ Initiative. Until 28 February, you can express your view on this instrument: what is its value, how could it work better, why should I support an ECI? Fill in this survey, in English or in Greek, and share your opinion!