Yesterday, 8 May, MEPs Leonidas Donskis (ALDE) and Traian Ungureanu (EPP, Romania) invited to the European Parlament various representatives from the EU institutions and non-governmental organisations, diplomats and experts for a discussion on child rights and their protection in the EU neighbourhood. The event "Making a Difference: Supporting Vulnerable Children in EU Neighbourhood and Enlargement Countries" was held under the initiative of international NGO "World Vision".
The discussion covered the topics of child rights and their protection in the Eastern neighbourhood and Western Balkans, at the same time evaluating the projects which under the EU initiative already took place or are still being implemented in order to systematically address these challenges and deal with incidents of violence, discrimination and child abuse, which are still common today. The role of the EU has been and remains significant, as the Community recognises child rights and their protection as one of the EU external policy priorities, supporting and trying to encourage those countries which are cooperating with the EU to implement reforms in this particular field. Although the cooperation of the EU and its Eastern Partners in the field of child protection is identified as one of the most successful, there is still a need to implement systematic reforms in order to bring long-term results, as was discussed by the participants from the Parliament, the European Commission and the European External Action Service, as well as members of Brussels-based diplomatic corps, UNICEF and civil society organisations during the discussion held in the European Parliament.
In his opening remarks MEP Leonidas Donskis stressed that children`s situation in child care institutions, domestic violence, taunting, discrimination and abuse are the problems that must be addressed immediately, as the spread of them and impact on the public might bring shocking consequences. "Many countries that have achieved good results in different spheres are lagging behind other countries in the field of child`s rights because of a lack of political will, attention, confidence, psychological illiteracy, institutional inability or unwillingness to take decisive problem-solving actions," said L. Donskis. He also reminded about children left at home by migrating parents, which is very a painful problem not only to the EU neighbours but also to some of the newer Member States.
The successful projects of the EU and the third countries, which are seeking EU membership or cooperation with the EU, as well as their results, were presented during the discussion. These projects took place in Albania, Armenia and Romania (prior to its accession to the EU in 2007). The participants of the debate agreed that the EU should strive to include child protection as a separate subject in the EU high-level agreements with partner countries in order to provide a legal and policy basis for further cooperation in this area. Representatives from NGOs assessed positively the establishment of the office of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights with a mandate that specifically includes children’s rights. This would strengthen the EU obligation to improve the child rights situation in those countries seeking closer cooperation with the EU and its membership