Four days that will shape the next five years

With less than one month to go to the European elections, the EU institutions are bracing themselves for the next institutional cycle and setting their priorities. But the main thing that will shape EU’s future is the mobilisation and choice of its citizens. We call on all citizens to make an informed choice and vote!

A recent video from the European Parliament on older persons sharing their experiences of achieving democracy reminds us that older persons have much to contribute to safeguarding this fundamental achievement and “passing it on” to the future generations. In this briefing, we look on the unique voice that older persons bring during these times of elections and explore the policies that are needed for a Europe for all ages.

The unique voice of older persons in Europe

Today’s older persons have accompanied and shaped the construction of today’s Europe: going through wars or reconstruction, they laid the foundations for our current welfare states, overcame century-old enmity between peoples, tore down walls and oriented their societies on the path of the European values of human rights and democracy – while raising their families, caring for their children and people in need of care. Much remains to be done to fully achieve these aspirations and build a world where everyone can thrive, but their heritage should be acknowledged.

This is the theme chosen by the European Parliament  campaign #UseYourVote, launched on 29 April, the EU Day of Solidarity between Generations. The campaign aims to encourage us to go to the polls between 6 and 9 June use our vote wisely if we don’t want “others to decide for us”. A timely reminder given that in many Member States, parties who threaten the very foundations of the European construction, risk gaining larger vote shares.

We also marked the 29th April by sharing quotes from various stakeholders and citizens about the importance of solidarity between generations. Solidarity is not a one-way street but must embrace all generations. We are proud that we could launch a common call with the European Youth Forum on ‘uniting across generations’, a declaration acknowledging the challenges and of younger and older generations. Together we call for policies to end discrimination based on age, take account of the needs of all – including future – generations and promote dialogue, understanding and connection between generations to reach this.

Let the European elections be a moment for this exchange!

Which ageing policies for the next term and decades?

Beyond the need to work together for our common values, we have set up our own manifesto about how we want to achieve a Europe for all ages, calling first and foremost for an EU Age Equality Strategy, but also for policies supporting participation, citizenship, autonomy and well-being for older persons. To exemplify our calls, we have launched two “manifesto explainers” and we are working on a third one this month:

Our members are actively taking part in the national debates on the EU elections. We will ensure their involvement also beyond election day, when the new mandate-holders will take office.

Notwithstanding the elections, the new legislature is already taking shape. The Council President has been consulting heads of state and government since last summer to draw up the Council’s Strategic Agenda for 2024-2029, and the Belgian Council Presidency held a summit on the European Pillar of Social Rights in La Hulpe in April. To ensure our messages are heard, we teamed up with other civil society organisations around our key demands:

During the La Hulpe summit, almost all EU Member States, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the EU Economic and Social Committee, Trade Unions, Employers’ organisations and Social Platform have signed the La Hulpe Declaration on the Future of the European Pillar of Social Rights The signature of this declaration is a vital showcase of the continued importance of pursuing ambitious social policies. After a legislative term marked by skills shortages, the reorientation of the EU’s economies in the green and digital transformations, the reliance on social protection through temporary unemployment schemes during the COVID-19-related lockdowns and governmental support measures on purchasing power during record-high inflation, it was important to uphold that we would not have gone through this period as well without the Pillar of Social Rights. Also, in light of the demographic change, the Social Pillar is an important compass.

Risks for social Europe and the EU as a whole

However, as important as it is, the EU Pillar is under threat: two Member States and one employer federation have not signed the La Hulpe Declaration and many of the ambitious initial proposals were not included. The adoption of a new framework for the budgetary policies of Member States, returning to the ‘Maastricht criteria’ that governed the 2010’s austerity policies, will put a significant strain on the possibility of pursuing transformative social policies in the next years.

We have looked at various manifestos of the European political parties and found many references to positive policies for older persons, such as calls for a Senior citizens’ guarantee and for an Age Equality Strategy, a call to say ‘No to ageism’ and more. Others are much less inclusive of older persons and solidarity between generations. We call on all citizens to have a close look at the policies they are voting for behind the glitters of shiny campaigns!

It is all the more important that the European citizens send a clear signal during next months’ elections: that they will not leave the EU to the forces that want to unravel it; and that the next term must pursue inclusive policies for all its citizens – of all ages.

And after those four election days?

Our work will continue after the elections to ensure that demands of citizens and pledges of candidates are met. We will hold our Annual Conference right after the elections on 12 June, looking at the prospects for age equality in the years to come. Likewise, we also invite AGE members and interested citizens to have their say at a dedicated citizens’ workshop on September 26th 2024 to exchange on how to influence policies, laws, education and intergenerational approaches for a new European agenda on ageing. You can read more and register here.

Useful links

photo credits: Tara Winstead on Pexels + UseYourVote
European Commission campaign

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