Lunch-Debate on “The Vulnerable” - 23 April 2015

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On 23 April 2015, the CNUE held a lunch-debate on the subject “What social and legal protection for the vulnerable in Europe”. On this occasion, the new section of the website on “The Vulnerable in Europe” (www.the-vulnerable.eu) dedicated to the rights of minors was presented officially to the participants. In addition to presenting this new tool, the CNUE took the opportunity to stimulate reflections and discussions at European level with specialists on the subject

Jean Tarrade, the CNUE President, began by recalling the challenges for society in protecting the vulnerable: “Protecting vulnerable minors and adults has become a real challenge for society. Increasingly, people requiring protection need to travel, be looked after or are hospitalised in a Member State other than that of their habitual residence. Like their family, their assets can be spread across several States. This tendency affects minors and the elderly, but also people who are victims of an accident or illness, people with disabilities, etc. Yet building the EU comes in the context of defending the rule of law in which we live. Europe is not just about the internal market, it is also about the rule of law. It is the EU’s duty, and also that of practitioners, including notaries, to ensure that the rights of citizens can be applied. When I talk about citizens, I am of course thinking of the weakest parties, like the vulnerable”.

Hence the wish of the notaries of Europe to contribute to the common effort through major work informing and raising awareness, undertaken for example through the creation of the website on “The Vulnerable”. After having warmly congratulated the CNUE for this initiative, MEP Antonio López-Istúriz White (EPP, Spain) spoke to the participants about progress achieved with a view to implementing the Hague Convention of 13 January 2000 on the international protection of adults. Mr López-Istúriz had led an own-initiative report on the subject, which had received wide support from the European Parliament in 2008. He presented the situation briefly: 14 Member States have signed and ratified the Convention to date (more information at http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.text&cid=71). Mr López-Istúriz affirmed that the European Parliament was well aware that there was still work to be done. He announced that the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee was envisaging a new initiative based on the 2008 resolution, to identify the sticking points and extend the scope to other aspects of the Convention.

Verena Knaus, Senior Policy Officer for UNICEF, focused her contribution on the social protection of minors in the European Union. She told the true stories of three children who had been victims of violence and abuse. Ms Knaus insisted on the need for better access to justice and improving care for these victims. She welcomed the efforts made by the European institutions since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. She also applauded the creation of an intergroup at the European Parliament on children’s rights. However, she regretted that the European Commission’s EU Justice Scoreboard did not take this issue into account.

Annelisa Cotone, Policy Officer for the rights of persons with disabilities at the European Commission’s DG EMPL, elaborated on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (more information at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml). The EU has been party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since January 2011. In February 2015, 25 EU Member States also ratified the UN Convention. Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands have signed but not yet ratified it. An evaluation period for implementation of the convention has begun. The Commission has been in dialogue with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since August. A Commission report is expected for next year with an action plan, with a view to implementing the committee’s recommendations. Ms Cotone also addressed the question of Article 12 of the Convention on the exercise of legal capacity of persons with disabilities. She called for the right balance to be found between the protection of the individual and the preservation/promotion of autonomy and asked the Member States to act to this end, insisting on the need to exchange good practice.