Germany holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at a time marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 1 July and 31 December, the Federal Ministers will preside over numerous Council meetings at EU level.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs has set itself several priorities for this period, particularly in the areas of youth and democracy and gender equality. The Ministry also looks at all sections of society affected by the pandemic and aims to mitigate the social impact of the crisis on society as a whole.
The aim is to help shape an EU that relies on its citizens' commitment and that delivers on its promise of gender equality.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs will focus on the following questions during the second half of 2020:
"Europe is based on the idea that we are all better off if we cooperate. This holds true for the European partners working together, just as it does for cooperation between women and men, between generations and between people of different lifestyles."Dr. Franziska Giffey, Federal Minister for Family Affairs
The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged Europe into a state of emergency. In many countries, public life came to a standstill for several weeks. The economic and social consequences of this will be felt in Europe for a long time yet.
People turned to their national governments for first responses to the crisis. At the same time, European cooperation looked promising. Countries supported each other and sent relief goods across borders. German hospitals took patients from other countries. The crisis was also quickly responded to at European level: the EU has agreed on several comprehensive rescue packages - in order to support Member States that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also companies, employees and particularly vulnerable groups of society.
The crisis has also shown us what is lacking when European achievements that have long since been taken for granted disappear. A Europe without freedom of movement and open borders is no longer imaginable.
In the coming months, it will be crucial to tackle the effects of the crisis in Europe together. This aim is at the core of Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU. Europe will be emerging stronger from this crisis if its citizens recall the founding principle of the European idea: We are all better off in Europe if we cooperate and address problems together.
Europe started as a peace project based on cooperation in the coal and steel sectors. Today, the European Union works together in many areas - from food production to space technology. Over the past 70 years, this cooperation has delivered peace, stability and prosperity. Sharing means winning.
The European Union does well to remember what unites it. After all, people spent decades fighting for the idea of a united Europe. This idea has made Europe a dream destination for many. The task now is to preserve the achievements for future generations and to work together in order to ensure our continued well-being.
In order for Europe to emerge from the crisis strong and in a spirit of solidarity, it is not only the European economy that needs to be strengthened but also European cohesion. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs aims to use Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU to promote and strengthen cohesion among Europeans.
Cohesion develops where people in Europe feel connected as neighbours - regardless of whether they come from Lithuania, Ireland or Greece. It is through this connection and the confidence in a united future that people are filling the European idea with life. They often do so every day anew.
For this to be even more self-evident, people need to be able to see in their personal lives that they are better off in a united Europe. For this reason, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs focuses on what constitutes a good life for people in Europe: young people taking part in political processes; women having the same opportunities as men; people actively participating in society - old and young alike, no matter where they are from.
The aim is to strengthen cohesion among Europeans so that many more generations to come will be able to benefit from the advantages of the European Union.
Young people are full of enthusiasm for Europe. Over 70 percent of 16- to 26-year-old Europeans believe that their home country is better off within the EU. For many of them, the EU guarantees democracy. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs wants to strengthen trust in the EU so that this positive perception by young Europeans can withstand uncertain times.
Young people's views and ideas for democratic togetherness in Europe also need to get more attention at European level. To this end, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs is organising the EU Youth Conference whose results are also to feed into the EU Youth Ministers Council. The aim is to promote communication between young people so that they become actively committed to Europe.
In addition, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs strengthens young people growing up, provides European impetus for further developing youth work in Europe and promotes the European perspective in child and youth services.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs exchanges information on good practices in democracy work with its European partners, for example on "Live democracy!", which is one of the largest democracy support programmes in Europe.
Nowhere else in the world do women enjoy as many freedoms and rights as in Europe. Seventeen out of the twenty countries worldwide in which women have the most comprehensive rights and opportunities are in Europe.
This was fought hard for. But there is still a lot to be done - this has become clearly visible during the COVID-19 crisis. After all, freedoms and rights do not automatically result in gender equality. In order for women to achieve their full potential and be treated fairly, the framework conditions need to be right - especially in times of crisis.
There are already many successful gender equality measures in place at federal level, for example the Transparency in Wage Structures Act or the national Violence against Women helpline. However, Germany can also learn a lot from its neighbours, for example regarding the reconciliation of working life as well as family life and care work.
During the Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs will focus on promoting high standards throughout Europe for the protection of women against violence. The aim is to improve access to protection and counselling for everyone, starting with a Europe-wide helpline for women affected by violence.
Moreover, there are plans for an exchange of experiences in the fight against this violence, in particular of experiences and rapid responses during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs has been active in combating violence against women for many years. A prime example in this regard is the "Stronger than Violence" initiative, which, since its launch in late 2019, has encouraged women to seek support and has made the available support services better known. Many partner organisations have already joined the initiative.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs promotes gender equality in working life, with the aim to reduce the gender pay gap in Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that unpaid (care) work is mainly carried out by women. They are therefore not able to engage in paid work to the same extent as men. For this reason, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs plans to discuss measures for a gender-equal distribution of paid work and unpaid care work.
Children and families are to be strengthened, enabling them to emerge well from the crisis. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs is aware that the measures taken to curb the COVID-19 pandemic also put - and continue to put - a financial burden on many families and children. Therefore, combating child poverty continues to be a key challenge. In addition, a special focus is on the particular need for protection of children and young people. This also includes access to support services. This is why the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs welcomes the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the EU Child Guarantee announced by the European Commission, and will be accompanying the social debate on it.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs is committed to promoting the rights of LGBTI persons and therefore supports the LGBTI Strategy announced by the European Commission. The aim is for rainbow families within the EU to receive full recognition and to enjoy the right to freedom of movement. This objective is to be advanced not only within the EU but also across all of Europe, namely in conjunction with Germany's Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
People in Europe are getting older and at the same time are in good health. This is a stroke of luck for whole generations. During the COVID-19 crisis, older people across Europe have been severely restricted in their everyday lives. Social distancing has been particularly challenging for people living on their own or in nursing homes. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs aims to strengthen the rights of older people and their equal participation in an increasingly digitalised society and to promote their best interests. This will strengthen cohesion across generations and countries.