Written by Clare Ferguson with Jack Meredith
Adopting a child is a major step for anyone, involving many checks and official procedures. Under the present system, however, there is no guaranteed EU-wide recognition of domestic adoptions in other Member States (the Hague Convention only recognises adoptions where the child lived in a different state). This can often cause legal uncertainty and significant and costly issues for adoptive families who move from one country to another, interfering with freedom of movement rights as well as the rights of the child. As adoption is a national competence, Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee proposes that cross-border recognition of adoptions would be the most effective way to improve child protection, reinforce EU citizenship rights, and reduce the social and administrative burden on families. On Tuesday, Members will debate the Committee’s report with recommendations to the Commission to make a legislative proposal, with a vote to follow on Wednesday.
Sticking with the youth theme – although the Erasmus programme is no spring chicken, having celebrated its 30th anniversary at the European Parliament last week – Members will discuss an own-initiative report by Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee on implementing the Erasmus+ programme on Wednesday evening. Wide consultation has highlighted that, although balanced in its objectives, the revised programme needs some fine-tuning, with a certain lack of funding and low success rates for applicants dampening students’ enthusiasm. The report notes that Erasmus+ has great potential to support quality improvements in vocational education and training, by attracting under-represented groups. It supports cross-border volunteering, and calls for an end to financial barriers to access, especially as studies show that participants enjoy better career prospects.
In addition to the student exchange programme, Erasmus+ supports initiatives in education, training and sport with a €14.7 billion budget. The EU was tasked with supporting the Member States on sports policy under the Lisbon Treaty, and the Culture and Education Committee’s own-initiative report on the implementation of EU sports policy and recommended routes forward will be presented to plenary on Wednesday evening, ahead of upcoming discussions on a new EU work plan for sport. The report focuses on sports integrity and good governance, as well as access to sport and its role in social inclusion. Measures to combat match-fixing, doping and third-party ownership of players all come under scrutiny, while the importance of ensuring access to sport and physical activity as a path to good health are underlined as crucial to an effective work plan.
A practice carried out for sociocultural or religious reasons on young children – girls aged from infancy to 15 years – female genital mutilation (FGM) has no health benefits, but serious health consequences for victims. Recognised as a form of child abuse and gender-based violence, FGM is a violation of the human rights of women and girls. In advance of the United Nations International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on 6 February, the European Commission will make a statement to Parliament on Wednesday afternoon on EU efforts to combat FGM. The European Parliament estimates that at least 500 000 FGM victims currently live in the EU, with a further 180 000 at risk. These numbers swell as victims – women and girls suffering from or in fear of FGM – claim asylum in the EU, and Parliament is likely to ask that the EU do more to protect them.
Also on the agenda on Wednesday, is management of the EU external fishing fleet. The EU’s common fisheries policy seeks to protect fish stocks and the fisheries market by encouraging all fishing vessels to adhere to the same principles and standards – both non-EU vessels that have permission to fish within EU waters, and EU vessels that fish outside Union waters. Parliament’s Fisheries Committee has examined European Commission proposals to improve the management of the EU’s external fleet. The Committee concludes that the proposals would ensure the EU fulfils its responsibilities as a flag state and contribute to creating a level playing field for EU fishing activities through authorisation and traceability measures. Members will vote on the Commission’s proposal for a revised system of issuing and managing fishing authorisations on Wednesday afternoon.