The Dutch magazine ‘Right!’, which is produced by our member Defence for Children International-Netherlands, interviewed Eurochild Secretary General Jana Hainsworth on the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which begins on 1 January 2016. Here are some excerpts:
Excerpts from the interview, translated from Dutch:
The Dutch Presidency and children’s rights
“Children are not an isolated issue, but an aspect of policy in many areas, like gender policy or the rights of people with disabilities. Therefore it is difficult for advocacy groups that work with these types of issues to make their subject a priority policy at the European Commission. In the field of children’s rights, nevertheless a lot of work has been done that serves as a guideline, for instance when it comes to the prevention of violence against children, child-friendly justice systems or youth participation. Netherlands, as future president, thinks, just like the European Commission, that Europe must work with what they already have, rather than proposing new strategies. They want to narrow the agenda and focus on the essentials. Since the Netherlands takes the principle of subsidiarity very seriously -the principle that Europe does not do things that Member States themselves can do – I think children could fall outside the scope of Europe. Having said that, we should take into account that for example poverty reduction is one of the sub-priorities during the presidency of the Netherlands.”
“It will not be easy to have a great impact in a period of six months, but the president can have an impact on the tone and the way specific topics are addressed. With regard to this, I hope that the Netherlands wants to be our ally in protecting children’s rights and prioritising the interest of the child. We would like to see that the Netherlands, as President, stresses that any minor refugee who enters Europe is a child with the same rights as any other child, it is first a child, and then a refugee. We must ensure that refugee children are cared for properly and that they have the opportunity to build a good life, if we don’t do that the consequences for the European Union are incalculable.”
Exchange of ideas or making policy
The Dutch Presidency sees a limited role for itself to reach agreement on reducing poverty, but this makes their goals also accessible. In that sense there is an extra opportunity during this presidency to put child poverty on the agenda of the European Commission and of all Member States. Also, it gives a chance to highlight how important it is to put children at the centre in European and national policies on poverty reduction. As I have said this is about the exchange of good examples. To this end, over the next six months the Dutch government can make use of the help of Eurochild and other Dutch social organisations. Setting up structural activities to enable Member States to share experiences with regard to fighting poverty among children, would be a first positive step.
Read the full interview (in Dutch) here