General Market

What Brexit means for Australian travellers: Pounds and sense

What Brexit means for Australian travellers: Pounds and sense

  • It's a great time for a tour of London's big sights

    It’s a great time for a tour of London’s big sights

  • Straits of Gibraltar.

    Straits of Gibraltar.

It is six months since the chances of eradicating 2016’s most hideously ubiquitous portmanteau were reduced to zero. When Britain’s voters in the June 23 referendum narrowly advised they wished to leave the European Union, Brexit was here for the long haul.

But despite having time for things to calm down and settle into shape, little clarity on what Brexit means for Britain – and everyone else – has emerged.

For Australian travellers to Britain only one result really matters – the dollar to pound exchange rate. And that favours Australian visitors. On June 22, a dollar would get you £0.51 – now it’s about £0.59. That is a 16 per cent increase in value over six months, making a trip to Old Blighty considerably more affordable than it has been for some time.

But will it get even cheaper? Well, that requires a look into a chipped and murky crystal ball. Before the referendum, the general consensus on the Leave side was that there would be some short-term pain, but medium to long-term gain. This view seems to have miraculously disappeared beneath an avalanche of chest-beating designed to get the exit pushed through as quickly as possible.

On the Remain side, the questions were largely about whether the medium to long-term gain would happen. The short- term economic hit was taken as a given – it was just a case of how big that hit would be.

In the six months since the referendum, the economic signals have been mixed. Each side has leapt on every sliver of data that supports their viewpoint, and entirely unconvincingly. The only clear, undeniable signal has been that the pound has dropped significantly on the two occasions when Brexit has become significantly more likely. The first was in the immediate aftermath of the vote, and the second in early October when Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain would trigger Article 50 – the start of the official two-year leaving process – by the end of March 2017.

There have also been mild boosts in the pound’s standing every time Brexit has looked less likely – such as when the High Court decided that Parliament had to give permission for Article 50 to be triggered. This case has now gone to the Supreme Court, with a decision expected in January.

For Australian travellers, this limbo could represent something of a sweet spot. The inflationary costs of a dropping pound are yet to kick in – and imported food in particular is going to have to cost more soon. Such costs will almost certainly filter through to hotels, so a stay will be cheaper in Australian dollar terms, but not necessarily as cheap as the exchange rates would suggest.

As for what happens if and when Article 50 is triggered (it is generally thought that Parliament won’t block it, even if given the ability to), nobody quite knows. The most likely scenario is that the pound drops again, and businesses that have been playing wait-and-see start putting their post-EU era plans into action.

Conventional wisdom, however, has it that Brexit’s economic impact will be a boon to the British tourism industry. But it’s a bit too soon to tell – not much relevant data has been published. The International Passenger Survey, which collects the figures on the number of global air passenger arrivals, shows there was a year-on-year increase of 2 per cent between July and September. How much of that can be attributed to the Brexit vote is near impossible to work out, and it is not broken down into country of origin.

The British Hospitality Association’s Travel Monitor paints a mixed picture, stating that arrivals were down in July and August, but up in September. Anecdotally, however, tourism authorities believe visits from Australia are up now that word of Britain being cheaper has filtered through.

One key area where any changes are most likely to be felt is among working holidaymakers. In time, the rules could change – with restrictions likely to be relaxed if Britain pursues closer ties with Australia. For now, though, the lower earnings potential is an issue.

British relocation specialist, 1st Contact, which provides services such as opening bank accounts and obtaining National Insurance numbers, says the uncertainty is weighing on the minds of many of its clients.

Sam Hopwood, managing director of 1st Contact Australia, says: “Since Brexit we have seen some types of clients become wary of relocating to the UK. These are mainly the more mature clients with families and homes to relocate. The typical backpacker under 31 years of age doesn’t seem to be bothered by Brexit.

“Many are saying that they are ‘just going to wait and see’. This is a very similar expression used in 2008 around the time of the GFC. We feel that similar to back in 2008, once the media attention to Brexit dies down and people can see that it is business as usual in the UK, those people who were wary will see that the UK still offers great opportunities.”

Alana Deghelli, from gap year specialists the Global Work and Travel Company, says the main change has been in British citizens looking to move overseas, and that there have been queries from Australians holding dual passports. “They were worried that they wouldn’t be given the same access into European countries as before,” she says. “This is a major selling point for the UK as our customers use the UK as their base to continue their travels in the surrounding areas.”

Complicating matters is the emergence of Berlin as a lower-rent, hipper alternative base – particularly for those wanting to work in the creative and tech industries. But the German capital isn’t just pulling Australians away from London – it is attracting young Brits, too. If hostility towards immigration continues to dominate the Brexit debate, then Berlin’s welcoming embrace could become a bigger drawcard.

For now though, there is a risk of overanalysis. Sydney-based fashion illustrator Sara Gilbert nails the attitude most will have when talking about her trip in July. “I did notice a difference in the pound since my trip in April,” she says. “But truthfully, I wasn’t there to shop, save, or enjoy the financial benefits. I guess I was a tad more inclined to shout an extra round, or get an Uber without paining over the cost too much, but that’s about it …”

Making it easier for Aussies to buy a Pom a pint – now there’s a Brexeffect that both Remain and Leave voters can get behind…

NAME Steve McKenna

BORN Manchester

LIVES London

Best post-Brexit bargain sterling’s dip against the Aussie dollar means there are superb accommodation deals to be had, especially with the Landmark Trust, which has an amazing portfolio of historic, quirky properties for rent (imagine staying in castles, follies, lighthouses and cottages). You’ll get particularly good bang-for-your-buck if travelling as a family or group. For example, West Blockhouse, a modified Victorian fort on Wales’ gorgeous Pembrokeshire coast, sleeps eight, and costs $719 for four nights – about enough time to explore the region’s treasures on foot and by car; landmarktrust.org.uk

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

SWITCH HOUSE

Unveiled days before the shock Brexit result, Tate Modern’s new 10-storey Herzog & de Meuron-designed wing is an eye-catching spectacle packed with thought-provoking contemporary art; tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern–

BIRMINGHAM

Keen to hear both sides of the Brexit story? Chat with the Brummies of Birmingham, a buzzing multicultural metropolis that polled 50/50 (bar a few thousand votes) in the referendum. The city centre’s Old Joint Stock pub is usually a hive of conversation; visitbirmingham.com

DOVER CASTLE

Perched above the famous white cliffs, Dover’s magnificent 12th-century castle has historically protected England’s south coast from foreign invaders. Today’s visitors, however, are welcome to roam its labyrinthine tunnels and medieval interiors; english-heritage.org.uk

NORTH COAST 500

Starting and finishing in Inverness, this awe-inspiring touring loop weaves through the myth-riddled highlands of Scotland, a mostly pro-EU nation. Swaths of tarmac on this 830-kilometre route were, incidentally, funded by EU grants; northcoast500.com

BOROUGH MARKET

Brexit may mean Brexit (according to the British prime minister), but this vibrant market on London’s South Bank remains resolutely cosmopolitan. It’s a hub of European languages from traders and punters – and food and drink from across the continent and beyond. See boroughmarket.org.uk

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Rail fares are a snip – if booking in advance. You can travel from London to Edinburgh for as little as $42 one way. Pay $94 and go first-class, and you’ll get surprisingly tasty meals, free soft drinks and alcohol, and extra comfort on a journey that takes four and a bit hours and whizzes past some of Britain’s most entrancing scenery. See virgintrainseastcoast.com

NAME Sue Williams

BORN Basildon, Essex, once voted the “naffest” (most bogan) place in Britain

LIVES Kings Cross, Sydney

Best post-Brexit bargain … Book a three-hour tour around London in an old (decommissioned) black cab. It’s extraordinary, and you get to see all the big sights – think Buck Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London and so on – in comfort, with the taxi able to drive, and park, where ordinary cars can’t. With the pound’s slide it’s more affordable than it’s ever been – up to six passengers from just $313. Tours include Classic London, Royal London, Beatlemania, even Jack the Ripper’s London, and they’re also very happy to take special requests. See blackcabheritagetours.co.uk

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

STONEHENGE

This has always been a personal favourite; the only problem is the crowds in a post-Brexit Britain where so many are choosing to holiday at home. Skip the queues with, for instance, a small-group Viator tour that gives you exclusive access to the site, and then bypass queues to Windsor Castle for $80. See viator.com

RIVER THAMES

Release your inner James Bond, the ultimate cool Brit, with a ride on a new superfast speedboat up the river from the London Eye. Exhilarating. And only $66 for 50 minutes for adults, $43 for kids. See londonribvoyages.com

SCOTLAND

Europhiles will be warmly welcomed since every Scottish council voted to Remain. So take this moment to explore one of the most underrated cities in Britain – historic, colourful, wild and wonderful Glasgow.

FOUNTAINS ABBEY

Gorgeous ruins of a 12th-century monastery near Ripon in north Yorkshire which were laid waste by Henry VIII – the man who was once constantly in conflict with his European neighbours. Not much has changed.

PEOPLE LAUGHING

As gloom descends on Britain, why not make a real effort to understand the British sense of humour? Take a half-day stand-up comedy workshop at The Comedy School in London for $126.  You even get a cup of tea and a cake. See thecomedyschool.com

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Once, you avoided talking about The War. Now it’s The Referendum. Passions still run high on both sides. Stick to discussions about the lousy weather.

NAME Keith Austin

BORN A Cockney born and bred, from Bethnal Green, East London, and passionate Remainer.

LIVES Sydney, Australia

BEST POST-BREXIT BARGAIN

Given that actual Brexit is several years and a High Court challenge away, we have no idea whether it’s going to look like a fairy on top of a Christmas tree or a pug-ugly troll lurking under a bridge. Best guess? European holidays from Britain are going to be a whole lot more expensive, which means Butlin’s Holiday Camps (all three of them) are going to start looking a whole lot more attractive. Book a bargain now at butlins.com/index.aspx

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

On a clear day you can see France. Take a picnic and remember the old days when the Brits could work over there without hassle and good smelly cheese didn’t come with a mortgage attached.

BOGNOR REGIS

Officially the sunniest town in Britain though no one can predict when that day arrives. There’s a Butlin’s there. See butlins.com/index.aspx

WISBECH

A lovely market town in Cambridgeshire and the “capital” of the fens. More than 71 per cent of voters here chose Leave. Visit the town but don’t spend anything.

GIBRALTAR

So 95.9 per cent of voters in this British Overseas Territory on the Spanish coast voted Remain. Go visit them and spend up big. They are likely to be depressed and will need some Aussie larrikinism to cheer them up.

THE CHANNEL ISLANDS

(Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and the like) aren’t actually part of the EU anyway but they have intimated that they might, depending on the eventual Brexit terms, break away from the mainland. Prime Minister Theresa May won’t let that happen without a fight. Join the rebels. If it all goes pear-shaped the French mainland is a short ferry ride away.

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Be extra careful in the City of London business district at night. What with all the companies decamping to Berlin, Frankfurt and Paris, it will be like a ghost town. If someone called Farage sidles up to you and whispers “change money, change money?” run like the wind.

NAME Rob McFarland

BORN Brighton

LIVES Sydney

BEST POST-BREXIT BARGAIN

London. With the pound significantly weaker against the Aussie dollar, this is the time to splurge on those bucket-list London experiences. Have afternoon tea at The Ritz, stay a night at The Savoy and splash out on dinner at three Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. See visitlondon.com

FIVE BEST POST-BREXIT SIGHTS

EDINBURGH 2017

Marks the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival, which means there has never been a better time to head north of the border and check out the city’s 12 annual celebrations. See edinburghfestivalcity.com

BRITISH LIBRARY

Harry Potter fans will want to plan their visit around the British Library’s new exhibition, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the release of the first book (October 20, 2017-February 28, 2018). See bl.uk

LIVERPOOL

In February 2017, the British Music Experience opens in the historic Cunard Building in Liverpool with more than 600 artefacts and 90 hours of digital content. See britishmusicexperience.com

NOBU

Master sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa will open his first European hotel in London’s Shoreditch in the first quarter of 2017. The 150-room property will feature a dramatic three-storey restaurant with a food and drinks menu developed by Matsuhisa himself. See nobuhotels.com

HULL

It’s the British City of Culture in 2017, which means a year-long celebration that includes 25 festivals, 12 artists’ residences and 1500 special events. See hull2017.co.uk

BEST TRAVEL TIP FOR AUSTRALIANS TO POST-BREXIT BRITAIN

Eventually, Heathrow will have to close its EU immigration channel, which means queues for everyone entering the country will probably increase. Consider flying into a quieter London airport such as Gatwick or fly to France or Belgium and take the Eurostar across the channel. For the ultimate in leisurely arrivals, cruise into Southampton.

The story What Brexit means for Australian travellers: Pounds and sense first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

General Market

Three Institutions sign Joint Declaration on the EU's legislative priorities for 2017

Building on the European Council’s Strategic Guidelines and the 10 priorities the European Parliament gave the Juncker Commission a mandate to deliver, the Presidents of the three European Institutions agreed on a number of proposals they will give priority treatment to in the legislative process. This will ensure that the EU delivers concrete results for its citizens and addresses the most urgent challenges Europe faces today.

President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Today’s Joint Declaration is a new milestone in the way the EU can deliver better and faster on our common challenges. It is the first time in EU history that the three European Institutions have agreed on a limited number of initiatives of major political importance that should be fast-tracked in the legislative process. We may be three different Institutions, but there is only one European project we work for, representing the interest of all EU citizens. What we have seen with the European Border and Coast Guard should become the new standard for delivering swift and meaningful solutions together. Where there is a will, there is a way in Europe.”

In addition to the EU’s commitment to the ongoing work on all legislative proposals already tabled, the Presidents of the three Institutions set out in the Joint Declaration six specific areas in which proposals should be fast-tracked. The Presidents of the Parliament, Council and Commission commit to streamlining the efforts of their Institutions to ensure swift legislative progress on these priority initiatives and, where possible, delivery before the end of 2017.

  1. Giving a new boost to jobs, growth and investment – through the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI 2.0), revamped Trade Defence Instruments, the Banking Union, the Capital Markets Union, and the improvement of waste management in the circular economy;
  2. Addressing the social dimension of the European Union – through the Youth Employment Initiative, improved social security coordination, the European Accessibility Act and the European Solidarity Corps;
  3. Better protecting the security of our citizens – through the Entry-Exit System, Smart Borders and the European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS), the control of firearms, instruments to criminalise terrorism, money laundering and terrorist financing, and the European Criminal Records Information Systems (ECRIS);
  4. Reforming and developing our migration policy in a spirit of responsibility and solidarity – through the reform of the Common European Asylum System (including the Dublin mechanism), the Legal Migration package and the External Investment Plan to help to address the root causes of migration by enhancing investment and job creation in partner countries;
  5. Delivering on our commitment to implement a connected Digital Single market – through the EU telecoms and copyright reforms, the Union of the 700 MHz band, preventing unjustified geo-blocking, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and common data protection rules;
  6. Delivering on our objective of an ambitious Energy Union and a forward looking climate change policy – through the 2030 climate and energy framework, the Paris Agreement and the Clean Energy for all Europeans package.

In addition, the three Presidents highlight four fundamental issues which need particular attention and further progress in 2017: (i) commitment to common European values, the rule of law and fundamental rights; (ii) tackling tax fraud, evasion and avoidance; (iii) preserving the principle of free movement of workers; and (iv) contributing to stability, security and peace.

This joint effort of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission is part of a new shared commitment and is explicitly foreseen in paragraph 7 of the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law Making, enabling the Union to turn proposals into action and produce results where they are most needed. 

Next Steps

The three Institutions have agreed on a careful joint monitoring and tracking of progress when it comes to the implementation of the Joint Declaration, both at political and at senior officials’ level. At political level, the implementation of the Joint Declaration will be monitored jointly and regularly through meetings of the Presidents of the three Institutions in March, July and November 2017. At the technical level, the implementation of the Joint Declaration will be monitored jointly and on a regular basis in the Interinstitutional Coordination Group, meeting at senior official level (as foreseen in point 50 of the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making).

To facilitate the monitoring and tracking of the follow-up to the Joint Declaration, a working document accompanying the Joint Declaration sets out in detail the initiatives which are to be fast-tracked in 2017.

Background

On 15 March 2016, the three European Institutions agreed on a new Interinstitutional Agreement (IIA) on Better Law-Making to improve the quality and the results of European legislation. The IIA on Better Law-Making is bringing changes across the full policy-making cycle, from consultations and impact assessment to adoption, implementation and evaluation of EU legislation. According to the new IIA, there must be joint agreements on the key topics that should be prioritised by the legislators, including simplification exercises for existing laws.

Each year, the Council, the Parliament and the Commission now discuss the EU’s legislative priorities and agree common top priorities for the upcoming year. This allows the three Institutions to work more closely together to tackle the big challenges that lie ahead.

Today’s Joint Declaration is a first enactment of this new approach to law making focused on delivering results. The Declaration is also in line with the Commission’s 2017 Work Programme.

For More Information

Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017

Working document to facilitate the monitoring and tracking of the follow-up to the Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017

General Government

Daily News 07 / 12 / 2016

Investing in Europe’s youth: Commission presents measures to improve opportunities for young people and launches European Solidarity Corps

The European Commission is today launching the European Solidarity Corps, just two months after President Juncker announced it in his State of the Union address and as a first deliverable of the priorities for action identified in the Bratislava Roadmap. As of today, young people between the ages of 18 and 30 can sign up for new opportunities to make an important contribution to society across the EU, and to gain invaluable experience and acquire valuable skills at the start of their career. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The European Solidarity Corps will create opportunities for young people willing to make a meaningful contribution to society and help show solidarity – something the world and our European Union needs more of. For me, this has always been the very essence of what the European Union is about. It is not the Treaties or industrial or economic interests that bind us together, but our values. And those who work as volunteers are living European values each and every day.” At 13:00 today, Vice-President Georgieva will officially launch the European Solidarity Corps under the Skyshelter Dome at the Schuman roundabout.In addition to the European Solidarity Corps,the Commission is also presenting a series of measures to boost youth employment, improve and modernise education, more investment in skills of young people, and better opportunities to learn and study abroad. Today’s proposals bring together at EU-level for the first time different types of action with a single goal: to improve opportunities for young people. The measures will be presented by Commissioners Thyssen, Stylianides and Navracsics following today’s College meeting. More information on the entire package can be found in the following press release and memo. More detailed information on the European Solidarity Corps can be found here. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083)

Ententes: la Commission inflige des amendes d’un montant total de 485 millions € au Crédit Agricole, à HSBC et à JPMorgan Chase pour participation à une entente concernant des produits dérivés de taux d’intérêt en euro

La Commission européenne a infligé des amendes pour un montant total de 485 millions € au Crédit Agricole, à HSBC et à JPMorgan Chase pour leur participation à une entente concernant des produits dérivés de taux d’intérêt en euro. Les banques se sont entendues sur des éléments de la fixation du prix des produits dérivés de taux d’intérêt en euro, et ont échangé des informations sensibles, en violation des règles de l’UE concernant les pratiques anticoncurrentielles. Contrairement à Barclays, à Deutsche Bank, à RBS et à Société Générale, avec lesquelles la Commission est parvenue à une transaction concernant la même affaire d’entente en décembre 2013, Crédit Agricole, HSBC et JPMorgan Chase ont choisi de ne pas régler cette affaire par voie de transaction avec la Commission. Cette dernière a donc poursuivi son enquête à leur égard selon la procédure normale applicable en matière d’ententes. La décision d’aujourd’hui marque la fin de la première des différentes enquêtes ouvertes au sujet d’ententes dans le secteur des services financiers. Mme Margrethe Vestager, commissaire chargée de la politique de concurrence, a déclaré à ce propos: «Un secteur financier sain et concurrentiel est indispensable pour soutenir l’investissement et la croissance. Les banques doivent respecter les règles de concurrence de l’UE au même titre que n’importe quelle autre entreprise exerçant ses activités dans le marché unique.» Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne en EN, FR et DE. La conférence de presse du commissaire Vestager est disponible sur EbS.Voir aussi la déclaration du commissaire Vestager. (Pour plus d’informations: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

Fitness Check of Nature legislation: Commission considers options for improved implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives

Today the College held an orientation debate on the next steps of the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. These Directives are vital for Europe’s nature conservation policy and as such, their implementation needs to be improved. This was one of the findings of the extensive evaluation the Commission has been carrying out since late 2014 in which it has been consulting citizens and stakeholders across all EU Member States. Today First Vice-President Timmermans, Vice-President Katainen and Commissioner Vella, presented the key findings of this evaluation to the College and discussed the next steps. The challenges and problems identified primarily relate to the insufficient management and lack of adequate investment in the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, as well as to local deficiencies such as delays, unnecessary burdens for project permits and lack of adequate different assessments in regulating individual species. The evaluation identified the need to improve the implementation of the Directives and their coherence with broader socio-economic objectives, including other EU policy areas such as energy, agriculture and fisheries. On the basis of today’s Orientation Debate, the Commission will develop an Action Plan to correct the deficiencies encountered in the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The Action Plan will contain a series of concrete measures such as holding regular meetings with mayors and other local authorities to assess implementation challenges and help Member States take the necessary corrective action. Moreover, the Plan will design, in partnership with Member States and relevant stakeholders, appropriate implementation guidelines for regional actors, reducing unnecessary burdens and litigation, and incentivising national and regional investment in biodiversity. The Committee of the Regions will be closely involved in the follow-up of today’s orientation debate and Commissioner Vella with First Vice-President Timmermans and Vice-President Katainen will inform the College regularly about the progress on addressing the problems and shortcomings identified by the Fitness Check. (For more information: Enrico Brivio– Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)

Securing Europe’s external borders: European Border and Coast Guard Agency launches rapid reaction pool of border guards and equipment

Today the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is launching the rapid reaction pool of border guards and equipment. As of today, the Agency will be able to deploy equipment and a standing reserve of at least 1,500 border guards and experts at short notice to support Member States in emergency situations at the EU’s external borders. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: “As of today, there should no longer be shortages of staff or equipment for the operations of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. This is an important milestone in the roll-out of the Agency and will ensure, at all times, that sufficient support is available to help Member States in cases where the common external EU border is placed under strong pressure.” Launched on 6 October, in record time and less than a year after it was first proposed by the Commission, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will ensure the effective application of strong common border management standards and provide operational support and intervention where necessary to promptly respond to emerging crises at the external borders. The Agency will now be able to draw on 1,500 experts committed by EU Member States and Schengen associated countries that can be deployed within five working days. The border guards and experts of the rapid reaction pool will be in addition to the officers deployed in regular Agency operations at the EU’s external borders. The Agency currently has 1,200 officers deployed in operations at EU external borders. As of today, the Agency will also have at its disposal the necessary technical equipment that can be used in rapid intervention operations, including vehicles, vessels and aircrafts. You can find a press release by the European Border and Coast Guardhere. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423; Kasia Kolanko – Tel.: +32 229 63444)

L’Union européenne renforce son soutien au Burkina-Faso avec 800 millions d’euros

M. Neven Mimica, Commissaire européen pour la coopération internationale et le développement, est aujourd’hui à Paris pour participer à la Conférence internationale sur le Burkina Faso pour le financement du Plan national de développement économique et social (PNDES). Le Plan national pour le développement économique et social jette les bases pour la mise en œuvre des objectifs du nouveau gouvernement à l’horizon 2020. La Commission européenne compte l’appuyer avec un important soutien de 800 millions d’euros. Le Commissaire Mimica a fait la déclaration suivante : «Nous sommes aujourd’hui réunis pour discuter du Plan national pour le développement économique et social, plan que le Gouvernement du Faso présente à la communauté internationale. Il s’agit d’un Plan ambitieux qui doit mener à la consolidation de la démocratie et au développement durable du pays. L’Union européenne soutiendra à hauteur de 800 millions d’euros les efforts entrepris afin que la population du Faso voit rapidement les effets d’une stabilité retrouvée et bénéficie des dividendes de la paix.» Lors de cette conférence, le Commissaire Mimica va signer trois conventions de financement, dont deux appuis budgétaires, pour un montant de 205 millions d’euros.(Pour plus d’informations: Carlos Martin – Tel: +32 229-65322, Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft, subject to conditions

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft. The decision is conditional on compliance with a series of commitments aimed at preserving competition between professional social networks in Europe. Microsoft and LinkedIn are mainly active in complementary business areas, except for minor overlaps in online advertising. The Commission’s investigation under EU merger rules focused in particular on three areas: (i) professional social network services, (ii) customer relationship management software solutions, and (iii) online advertising services. In the professional social network services market, the Commission was concerned that Microsoft would use its strong market position in operating systems for personal computers and productivity software to strengthen LinkedIn’s position among professional social networks. This would make it harder for new players to start providing professional social network services in the EEA. To address those concerns, Microsoft offered a series of commitments which will apply in the EEA for a period of five years and will be monitored by a trustee. These commitments address the competition concerns identified by the Commission. Regarding customer relationship management software and online advertising services, the Commission’s concerns were not corroborated. The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “A growing number of Europeans subscribe to professional social networks. These networks are important for professionals to connect and interact and to find new career opportunities. Today’s decision ensures that Europeans will continue to enjoy a freedom of choice between professional social networks.” A full press release is available online in EN, FR and DE. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Angela Nardella – Tel.: +32 229 86801)

Une personne sur quatre âgées de 15 ans ou plus dans l’Union européenne est un fumeur

Alors qu’un peu plus de trois quarts (76,0%) des personnes âgées de 15 ans ou plus vivant dans l’Union européenne (UE) ne fumaient pas en 2014, 19,2% fumaient quotidiennement du tabac et 4,7% en fumaient de manière occasionnelle. En d’autres termes, près d’une personne sur quatre (24,0%) âgées de 15 ans ou plus dans l’UE était actuellement fumeur en 2014. La proportion de fumeurs actuels varie selon le sexe, avec une proportion plus importante d’hommes fumant (28,7%) que de femmes (19,5%) dans l’UE en 2014. Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissaire européen à la santé et la sécurité alimentaire, a déclaré: “Les taux élevés de fumeurs dans l’Union européenne, et les preuves que les jeunes Européens continuent d’en payer le prix de leur santé constituent une de mes plus grandes préoccupations. Les données qu’Eurostat publie aujourd’hui démontrent à nouveau la nécessité des mesures fortes adoptées à l’échelle de l’Union européenne pour encadrer les produits du tabac et que les pays de l’UE doivent mettre en œuvre depuis le 20 mai de cette année. Ces nouvelles mesures comprennent des images d’avertissement relatives aux conséquences du tabac sur la santé humaine, ainsi que l’interdiction des arômes et de divers paquets attrayants. Elles visent à décourager les jeunes de fumer et à faire en sorte que les citoyens de l’UE de tous les âges soient pleinement conscients des effets nocifs du tabagisme.” Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d’informations: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel. +32 229 87624)

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Second EU Internet Forum to counter terrorist content and hate speech online

Tomorrow, the European Commission will host the second EU Internet Forum with the participation of Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos, Věra Jourová and Julian King. The Forum will bring together the Commission, Member States, EUROPOL, the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) and Internet companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube. The meeting will push for further progress on reducing accessibility to terrorist propaganda online and empowering civil society to increase the volume of effective alternative narratives on the Internet. The participants will also discuss a tool developed by the Internet industry to create a shared database to help identify potential terrorist content on social media and prevent its reappearance on other platforms. The Commission and Internet companies will sign a joint statement on curbing terrorist content on the Internet. The Commission will also report on progress made in addressing the surge of xenophobic and racist online hate speech. A press release from the launch of the EU Internet Forum is available online and a press point with Commissioners Avramopoulos and King will take place tomorrow in the VIP corner at 15:30. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423; Kasia Kolanko – Tel.: +32 229 63444)

Commissioners Avramopoulos, Jourová, King and Stylianides to attend the Justice and Home Affairs Council

Commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos, Věra Jourová, Julian King, and Christos Stylianides will attend the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 8-9 December 2016. On Thursday, Justice Ministers will discuss the latest development regarding the directive on the fight against fraud to the EU’s financial interests (the so-called PIF directive), the digital content directive part of the digital contract proposal and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office proposal (EPPO).  Discussions over lunch will focus on the code of conduct on countering illegal online hate speech. Finally, the Commission will report on the follow-up to the June Council conclusions on improving criminal justice in cyberspace. On Friday, Home Affairs Ministers will discuss the Commission proposals for a reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), including the reform of the Dublin mechanism, the establishment of a European Agency for Asylum and the proposals to create a common procedure for international protection in the EU, uniform standards for protection and rights granted to beneficiaries of international protection and the further harmonisation of reception conditions in the EU. Over lunch, the application of the principles of responsibility and solidarity in the context of the EU’s migration and asylum policy will be discussed. Home Affairs Ministers are also expected to agree on a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on the Eurodac regulation and possibly on the Entry-Exit System. Furthermore, Ministers will discuss the fight against terrorism, including policy options as regards foreign terrorist fighters, the cooperation between law enforcement agencies and electronic communication service providers and the management of the consequences following terrorist attacks including by strengthening Civil Protection measures. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 22962253; Carlos Martín Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: + 32 229-65322)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

General Government

Child Migrants, Refugees Especially Vulnerable to Violence during Humanitarian Crises, Speakers Tell Third Committee, as Debate on Children Concludes

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its general discussion on the rights of children today, with delegates describing progress and challenges on a range of issues pertaining to child health, education and protection.

While several delegates shared progress their Governments had made in improving legislative and social mechanisms to prevent violence against children, many were concerned by the growing threat posed by humanitarian emergencies, and in particular, the migrant and refugee crisis.

The representative of Bulgaria, which was both a transit and host country for thousands of refugees and migrants, reminded Member States that “a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant”.  As such, they had rights that must be protected by all.  Guatemala’s delegate was particularly concerned by the vulnerability of unaccompanied children migrating across the Americas.  Her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to help protect those youth, but she also urged States to stop detaining minors.  Similarly, El Salvador’s speaker called for a human rights-based approach to dealing with the situation of child migrants.  Echoing those concerns, the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation and to avoid detaining children.

A number of delegates addressed the situation of children living under occupation, with Ukraine’s delegate stressing that despite his country’s efforts to improve opportunities for children, many Ukrainian children living under Russian occupation had been denied their rights.  Similarly in Georgia, the Russian occupation was denying children the right to education in their native language and freedom of movement, said that country’s delegate.

In the Middle East, Palestinian children had been deliberately targeted by the Israeli army, said the State of Palestine’s observer.  She asked when the international community would react to those rights violations.  Iran’s delegate expressed dismay that political pressure had compromised the independence of the Secretary-General’s 2016 report on children and armed conflict.  He proposed the United Nations at least impose an arms embargo on Governments engaged in mass killing of children.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, exercising his right of reply, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he said the politicized statement was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

In other business today, the Committee approved a decision to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, to present an oral update.  She would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.

Also speaking were representatives of Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Monaco, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Guinea, Congo, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Panama, Madagascar, Morocco, Haiti, Mozambique, Armenia, Myanmar, Palau, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and the observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Officials of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also addressed the Committee.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, the State of Palestine and Ukraine.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 17 October, to begin consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to conclude its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4169.

Statements

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA (Cameroon) expressed concern about the conditions for children around the world, especially in Africa, due to armed conflicts and humanitarian crises.  Cameroon had made education a pillar of its social policies.  Protection of children’s rights was as essential.  Children recruited by terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, were of great concern.  She welcomed collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other United Nations agencies, stressing that with such assistance, Cameroon had implemented programmes to combat child mortality, focusing on systematic vaccination programmes. 

VALÉRIE S BRUELL-MELCHIOR (Monaco) said that while UNICEF aimed to help all children, after 70 years of action, numerous obstacles had yet to be overcome.  Two conditions were essential to ensure children had a good start to life:  health and education.  She observed that 250 million children lacked good nutrition, adding that children’s access to health care must include nutrition goals.  Quality education without distinction was the way to break the vicious cycle of poverty.  Children should be taught to reflect in a manner that would allow them to reject extremism.

MARÍA JOSÉ DEL ÁGUILA CASTILLO (Guatemala), endorsing the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said investing in childhood was crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Her country had been affected by El Niño and El Niña, and appreciated the United Nations’ support in responding to their devastating effects.  The situation of migrant children was of great concern and her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to support unaccompanied migrant children.  States must stop detaining minors.  Finally, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of children from bullying.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), addressing the vulnerability of children in armed conflict and the need for more efforts to protect their rights, said the Russian Federation’s occupation of Georgian territory had deprived Georgian children of their rights to education in their native language and freedom of movement.  Those violations were particularly concerning given the absence of international monitoring mechanisms inside those territories.  Committed to increasing opportunities for its children, Georgia had improved its education system, health and social services and ensuring children’s protection from violence.  Its Parliament had adopted a new amendment to the Civil Code requiring parental consent for marriage under age 16 and other measures to prevent human trafficking.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said her country had ratified all children’s rights instruments, demonstrating the country’s commitment to combating rights violations.  Various measures had strengthened Morocco’s legal framework, such as a law ensuring that the best interests of all children were considered.  A ministerial unit responsible for family, childhood, and disabled persons had set out a public policy to protect children against abuse over the Internet and from trafficking.  As new forms of crime required that reliable data systems be created for monitoring, and Morocco had partnerships with internet service providers to protect children against sexual exploitation, as well as an awareness-raising campaign for parents for their children’s safe use of the internet.

NICOLE ROMULUS (Haiti), associating herself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the States had major work to do to promote and protect children’s rights.  The number of children not in school had increased since 2011, while 250 million children lived in countries affected by armed conflict.  Governments were obliged to ensure that all children could live up to their potential.  She spoke about Haiti’s policies towards schools, noting that the President had urged all to work for a full, successful school year, and to join together to bring about a more unified Haitian society through quality education.  Haiti had ensured that children’s rights were a priority and had taken various measures to protect children’s rights. 

MANSOUR T J ALMUTAIRI (Saudi Arabia) said children’s rights were a priority for the Government, which recognized the right to life for children even during pregnancy.  The Government’s concern for children ran so deep that it required parents to choose proper names for them.  Saudi Arabia also ensured children’s protection from difficult or forced labour, while child abuse was punished in accordance with Sharia law.  Reiterating the Government’s commitment to the Convention and other international instruments, he said it would strengthen cooperation with international organizations.  Finally, he expressed concern about the plight of Syrian children and the need to end the war in that country.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) noted that, despite progress made, more than 47 per cent of the world’s children still lived in poverty and they were particularly vulnerable during times of conflict and natural disasters.  Political will, resource mobilization and investments were needed to protect and promote children’s rights.  For its part, India had adopted a rights-based approach through its National Policy for Children, which promoted children’s literacy, education and health care.  The Integrated Child Development Scheme, a universal programme, provided health care, food, immunization and pre-school education, he said, stressing that India would continue its efforts to protect children against violence and exploitation, in particular, the girl child.

RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) associated herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and with the African Group, stressing that the protection of children’s rights was a top priority.  Sudan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, among other international instruments.  Expressing support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, she said that the recruitment of children under the age of 18 was prohibited.  Special units in the ministry of the interior protected children, and a special investigator had been set up to investigate crimes against children in Darfur.  Further, Sudan had signed an action plan with the United Nations regarding children in conflict zones.  The root causes of children’s recruitment – including unilateral economic sanctions against countries – must be addressed.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said her country stood firmly on the path to becoming a State where children’s protection was a key value.  A programme to develop justice for children aimed to create a legal system which would protect children in conflict with the law, as well as children who were witnesses.  The Government was protecting children’s rights and reacting to each individual child’s needs, she said, adding that about 60 centres offered help for families in difficult living situations.  Policies for children included the protection of childhood and motherhood.  Extreme poverty had decreased in the country, as had infant mortality.

STEPHANIE GEBREMEDHIN (Eritrea) said the country’s culture and laws guaranteed children’s rights, noting that new penal and civil codes referenced corporal punishment and other forms of abuse.  The justice system did not allow children under 12 to be treated as criminals, while those between the ages of 12 and 18 were treated as juvenile offenders.  There were also efforts with civil society to raise awareness about violence against children and child trafficking.  The country’s efforts to provide more equitable health care had allowed it to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 on child mortality.  The number of births attended to by a skilled health worker had also increased, she said, adding that girls’ elementary school enrolment had reached 99 per cent, with pre-primary enrolment also increasing.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), associating with the African Group, described measures taken at the legislative, education, and social levels to improve children’s rights.  Education policies had led to an increase in girls’ school enrolment.  To address child abuse, the Government had set up a support hotline for victims.  Maternal and neonatal mortality had declined, thanks to the provision of free health care for children under age five and pregnant women.  The incidence of female genital mutilation also had steadily decreased.

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), stressing that countering violence against children was a priority, said the Government had enhanced its social policies and systems for the protection of children, families and communities.  It also had established a comprehensive care centre for children with disabilities and a new centre for early childhood care.  A national council for children and adolescents provided temporary protection for children under threat.  In addition, a national roadmap for the prevention of violence against children had been developed with guidance from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Dominican Republic was striving to improve parenting through awareness-raising and training for parents, teachers and community leaders.

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania) associated herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Government issued a new National Action Plan on addressing violence against women and children for the period 2016 – 2021. Additional measures were undertaken to protect children, including the translation and dissemination of the 2009 National Child Act and the establishment of a Child Helpline for reporting acts of violence and abuse. The Government also attached great importance to the child’s right to education and ending child marriage. Public schools were directed to ensure that all primary and secondary education is free for all children. Furthermore, a campaign against early marriages was launched in 2014. The “Kigali Declaration” provided the framework for action to end early and forced marriages.

MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia) said efforts to promote children’s rights had been underpinned by the national action plan to eliminate violence.  The President had convened the education commission, which financed education.  Indonesia was a “pathfinder country” in the newly-launched partnership to end violence against children.  The most basic unit of society was the family, which had the responsibility for nurturing children, he said, pressing Governments to enact family-friendly policies.  Indonesia had allocated a sizable share of its budget for children, providing them with free education and health care, which had led to lower illiteracy rates.  Stressing the imperative to end violence against children, he expressed Indonesia’s commitment to engage internationally to protect and promote their rights.

HELGA VALBORG STEINARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said her country was committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights at home and abroad and had recently codified a new framework agreement with UNICEF.  Iceland had incorporated the Convention into national law, she said, and urging States seek the treaty’s integration into policymaking.  Protecting the rights of girls would require eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices.  It was a stain on the global community that every day, almost 40,000 girls were subjected to early and forced marriage.  Girls must be provided with the sexual and reproductive health care they needed, including comprehensive sexual education.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said her country’s “Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth” focused particularly on providing education for girls.  For instance, Japan had assisted in building girls’ middle schools in the United Republic of Tanzania, where early marriage and pregnancy prevented them from completing their education.  Japan also had funded a programme through UNICEF that supported the release and reintegration of children from armed groups in African countries.  It had contributed $6 million for the reintegration of child soldiers and the protection and empowerment of children in armed conflict.  Locally, the Government provided administrative services to every family in need, in particular for families in difficult situations, such as single-parent households.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said between the seventieth and seventy-first sessions of the General Assembly, millions of children had become victims of armed violence and terrorism, noting that many had been “swallowed” by the Mediterranean Sea.  Lebanon had supported many initiatives last year, including resolutions in the Assembly and the Security Council which all aimed to create a world fit for children.  Lebanon paid attention to education, particularly as a means through which to combat extremism.  Education for all was at the heart of its policies, she said, noting that the country was hosting over one million refugees.

DAYANARA EDITH SALAZAR MEDINA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had faced waves of child migrants, underscoring that, through an interdisciplinary team, the Government was present in communities where shelters for migrants had been established.  The goal was to respect migrants’ rights, she said, adding that boys and girls should not be criminalized for being migrants.  All should have the same opportunities.  Investing in quality education and reducing neonatal mortality were crucial towards ensuring each boy and girl’s future.  She noted that the region continued to face challenges, adding that Panama sought to address the challenges of indigenous children and children with disabilities. 

YIN PO MYAT (Myanmar), noting that peace and reconciliation were prerequisites for the success of development policies, said the Government had strengthened its education programs to better protect children from exploitation and violence.  She welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” initiative, stressing that Myanmar had signed a Joint Action Plan with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on the use of children in the military in 2012. As a result, the recruitment process was centralized and children had been released from the military, if found.  She said 810 children had been released from the military since signature of the related Action Plan, noting that support had been provided to assist with their reintegration and education.  Also, 81 military officers and 321 officers of other ranks had been penalized by military and civil laws. Given such progress, it was time that Myanmar was delisted from the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.

HAMIDEH HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran), noting that the 2030 Agenda included numerous references to children, said millions of children still lived in poverty without adequate nutrition, sanitation, or vaccinations against disease.  He expressed dismay that children’s interests had been compromised under unjustified political pressure in the Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict.  “An arms embargo on Governments that engage in mass killing of children is the least that the United Nations can advocate for,” he said, stressing the importance of the family as the fundamental group of society.  In Iran, 460,000 children attended school free of charge, an enormous burden on the education system, and donors had failed to meet their commitments.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) encouraging support for the office on violence against children, expressed particular concern about cyberbullying and bullying in schools.  There was a collective responsibility to protect children in conflict and attacks on schools and hospitals could not be tolerated.  She urged parties to conflict to respect children’s rights and refrain from recruiting child soldiers, calling for adequate assistance for reintegrating those who had been recruited.  Timor-Leste was committed to ensuring access to education to all its children, with special attention given to those with disabilities.  To improve retention of girls in schools, legislation had been passed to support integration of teenage mothers in the educational system.  Health campaigns had resulted in a sharp decline in child mortality, while immunization campaigns had been greatly expanded, she added.

PARK JEE WON (Republic of Korea) underlined the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated approach in promoting children’s rights, welcoming the Organization’s efforts to expand partnerships with civil societies.  Education should be further expanded to include the most vulnerable and marginalized, she said, noting the some 58 million children lacked access to education.  Education was a building block of a sustainable, inclusive society based on human rights, equality, rule of law and respect for diversity.  Girls were more susceptible to violence and discrimination.  Last year, the Republic of Korea had launched a “Better Life for Girls” initiative to support girls’ health, education and vocational development in developing countries, to which it would provide $200 million over five years.

MS. AL JAWDAR (Bahrain) said Government programmes had improved children’s lives in recent years.  The country had adhered to its commitments under international conventions and had ratified the Convention in 1992.  In June, Bahrain’s representative had been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its human development indicators were high, thanks to its focus on children and youth.  Further, health care reforms had led to lower child and maternal mortality, she said, citing the provision of health care for newborns, vaccines for children under five and social and psychological service for children.

FAHAD M E H A MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) shared the concerns about threats children faced on the internet, including exposure to violent ideologies and sexual abuse.  Recalling that more than one billion children had been exposed to some form of violence over the past year, he urged all countries to implement the provision concerning violence against children under the 2030 Agenda.  Kuwait’s constitution recognized the family as the basis of society.  Based on that principle and its international commitments, Kuwait had enacted national laws to protect the family and the child, including a family court and several articles dealing with the family and children.  The State recognized the child’s right to live in a family environment.  It was impossible to address the issue of children without referring to the suffering of Palestinian children who lived under Israeli occupation.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN, said the Government recognized its duty to provide a safe and enabling environment for children.  A child’s right to education was of paramount importance and 20.9 per cent of the country’s 2017 national budget would go to education.  Further, the Government had passed an Anti-Bullying Act, as well as adopted a comprehensive approach to protecting children from sale, prostitution and child pornography and developed mechanisms to respond to child abuse.  Ending conflict was essential to creating the proper environment for children, she said, stressing the Government’s commitment to dialogue, and ultimately, forging peace with various armed groups.

EMMANUEL NIBISHAKA (Rwanda), while noting the progress in the reports, observed that child neglect, trafficking, abuse, exploitation, genital mutilation and child marriage persisted.  Rwanda believed in the primary role of Governments, supported by partners, including the United Nations, in promoting and providing protection to children.  The 1994 genocide in Rwanda had left many negative repercussions, along with post-conflict issues, that had affected Rwanda’s children, who represented a high percentage of the population.  The Government had made primary and secondary education free and compulsory, prohibited corporal punishment and opened rehabilitation centres for street children.  Further, Rwandan law condemned child prostitution, slavery and abduction, he said, urging the international community to continue establishing frameworks to protect children in armed conflicts.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her country had achieved all objectives on education of the Millennium Development Goals before the deadline.  Moreover, the education budget had increased tenfold over 15 years and provided free education to more than eight million students in nearly 23,000 schools, including refugee children in the Tindouf camps.  Significant results had been achieved in the quality of education and the fundamental rights of children.  The new law on child protection focused on protecting at-risk children; rules relating to child offenders; and specialized child protection centres, among other things.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and CARICOM, said his country had taken a comprehensive approach to realizing children’s rights.  For instance, the Government had guaranteed tuition-free education as a way to improve access.  It also had signed on to the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and been designated a “pathfinder country”.  Moreover, the Ministry of Education had created and provided a safety and security manual to schools as a way to address bullying.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that, in recognition that children were his country’s most important assets, Tonga had acceded to the Convention on their rights and was amending its laws appropriately, ensuring protection against violence, as well as access to education, free health care and other necessities.  National consultations were underway under Tonga’s strategic development framework, and awareness events were being held in conjunction with UNICEF, focusing on children’s growth, the implications of digital media on children and other areas of social protection.  There was no social welfare scheme for children as yet.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and with SADC, noted that the population of her country was young.  The Government was pursuing numerous policies to ensure respect for children’s rights, and the goals had been laid out in a regional and communal framework plan.  Public establishments and teaching personnel had received training on protecting children in school environments, she said, stressing that combating sexual tourism was extremely important.  Climate change impacted Malagasy children, and the effects of El Niño and drought had been severe.

GENE BAI (Fiji) said his country was strongly committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Constitution protected a child’s right to nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, and provided protection against abuse, neglect, violence, inhumane treatment, punishment and exploitative labour.  It also prohibited all forms of corporal punishment.  Access to quality education was paramount, and in 2015, for the first time, primary and secondary school education had become free.  Fiji was also committed to supporting gender equality and sought to limit the marginalization and exclusion of children with disabilities.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said that the Government had established a set of measures for promoting the rights and well-being of all children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.  Ending violence against children was a top priority.  The current humanitarian crisis was of an unprecedented scale, requiring immediate action.  Calling it a “children’s crisis”, he advocated a child-based approach to address it.  “We should remember that a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant,” he said.  As a transit and host country for thousands of migrants and refugees, Bulgaria was doing its utmost, in cooperation with the European Union, UNICEF and other partners, to protect the human rights of those fleeing war, in particular migrant and refugee children.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) reaffirmed his commitment to advance children’s rights, including in the areas of education and child labour.  Further, a new Child Marriage Restraint Act had been drafted which contained pragmatic guidelines to prevent child marriage.  A national, toll-free helpline had been set up to support efforts to report and prevent child marriage, and to report sexual harassment.  Bangladesh also had adopted a five-year action plan to reduce child labour.

IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea) associated himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77 and China, adding that it would be a success for the United Nations to see the Convention reach universal ratification.  Guinea was among the countries that had unreservedly ratified the Convention almost 30 years ago, as well as its relevant optional protocols.  But results for children around the world remained discouraging, and many remained marginalized, such as disabled children.  Awareness that children were the future was manifested in legal codes, he said, noting that Guinea’s free education system and its improved vaccine programme were other actions that underscored the Government’s commitment to realizing children’s rights.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo) said various challenges hindered children’s full enjoyment of their rights.  Congo had a new Constitution which had strengthened a strategic framework for children, and the country also had set up a children’s parliament with offices in Congo’s 12 administrative departments.  The Government had invested resources to respond to children’s needs, providing hundreds of technical aids to disabled children.  It also had cooperated with the World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure that all children received quality nutrition.  No effort would be spared to ensure the full implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He expressed concern about ongoing armed conflicts, particularly in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, drawing attention to their severe effects on children.  Urging Governments and parties to armed conflict to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he welcomed new initiatives, including the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and related action plans.

The Committee Chair said she and the Bureau had held consultations since 4 October on the pending organizational issue.  She proposed that the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, be invited to present an oral update to the Third Committee.  Ms. Keetharuth would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.  If needed, additional time would be allocated for her to make her presentation.

The Committee then approved that decision without a vote.

The representative of Eritrea said the proposal had been accepted in the interests of moving forward.  Eritrea maintained its readiness to engage with any delegation, and the matter had been resolved within the African Group.  But Eritrea’s goodwill had been faced with a “flip-flop” position of the other side. Discussion over the past two weeks had shown the politicization of the human rights situation.  Countries with contempt for international law had presented themselves as champions of Third Committee Rules of Procedures; countries which had massacred people and were using light ammunition against peaceful protesters had spoken on the matter.  Eritrea’s position was that human rights could only be promoted through dialogue.

IGOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, reiterated Ukraine’s commitment to children’s rights, as evidenced by its adherence to numerous international conventions and protocols.  Priorities covered health, recreation, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, drug abuse, child abandonment, support to families and protection for orphans.  Despite its efforts, the country faced great challenges as a result of Russian aggression.  Since the start of the conflict, 68 children had been killed and 186 had been wounded in eastern Ukraine.  The number of internally displaced people had reached 1.8 million, including more the 200,000 children.  The situation of children in the Donbas region had not received enough attention in the Secretary-General’s reports, he said, urging that that omission be rectified.  Greater international assistance was also needed to overcome the negative effects of the Chernobyl disaster, which had affected children most of all.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Palestinian children had been deprived all their rights, as killing and maiming continued with impunity.  Those actions had evolved into a deliberate Israeli strategy and she asked when the international community would react to those human rights violations.  The Israeli blockade had stifled any life or development in the occupied territory, with devastating impacts on children.

RUBEN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), associating himself with CELAC, shared achievements in his country, pointing out that the normative framework had advanced, and the comprehensive protection of children had improved.  Councils had been established to protect children at the local level.  Children’s health care had improved, and efforts had been made to ensure health care access for all children.  The growing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants must be addressed from a human-rights perspective, bearing in mind the best interests of children and their families.  Family reunification must remain a priority.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) quoted extensively from the 2030 Agenda’s paragraphs concerning children, before quoting from the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s articles concerning the child’s social, spiritual and moral well-being.  Those provisions, he said, highlighted two issues of great importance.  The first was the right of children to be reared by their parents.  Children in focus group discussions in Palau had said they would like their parents to spend more time with them, rather than try to appease them with gifts and food.  The second, he said, was that children should be provided an environment that addressed mental health and well-being and was free from bullying, shaming and demeaning treatment, at home and in school.

NEOW CHOO SEONG (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had made significant progress since acceding to the Convention in 1995, including by creating the Child Act of 2001.  That Act formed part of the protective legal architecture for children in Malaysia.  Efforts must be made to put in place accountability mechanisms, in order to break the cycle of impunity for violations of children’s rights.  Malaysia, as Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. 

ADDO MAMAN TCHALARE (Togo) shared his country’s experience in advancing the protection of children, noting that a decree had been drafted for the national Commission of the Child to prepare guidelines for those working in the area of children’s protection.  Health care, education and training initiatives all had improved children’s situations.  At the regional level, a program had been launched to protect child migrants and trafficking victims, while education for children with disabilities had improved.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said child protection efforts must be stepped up. While progress had been made in the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including with the release of children from armed forces, the issue of children and armed conflict must receive adequate attention in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group and with SADC, said Government efforts to address children’s needs at the legislative, institutional and community levels aimed to ensure that all Mozambicans could help resolve the issues hampering children’s ability to realize their potential.  Mozambique’s national action programme on children, among other results, had increased access to water and sanitation.  Challenges remained, however, notably caused by climate change and communicable diseases.  Creating a world fit for children demanded that States redouble their commitments and implement existing international instruments.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said that through the national strategic programme on child protection, and cooperation with development partners such as UNICEF, her country had reached vulnerable children and made reforms.  As a nation which suffered from aggression by Azerbaijan, Armenia condemned attacks on civilians including children.  From the beginning of Azerbaijani aggression, she said, attacks on children and the elderly had been indiscriminate.  Such barbaric acts constituted violations of core international instruments including the Convention against Torture and Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

MÉLANIE CORINE NINA GOLIATHA (Central African Republic) reiterated her commitment to the relevant Conventions, expressing her strong disapproval that an increasing number of children had been victims of armed violence, natural disasters and human rights violations.  She noted with concern the increasing number of killed and maimed children, as well as children displaced by conflicts and attacks by armed groups.  A concerted effort must be made to reunite children with their families, she said, emphasizing that a comprehensive response required governance and security sector reforms.

CHU GUANG (China) said his country had the world’s largest population of children – 280 million – and the Government worked to implement the Convention and its relevant Protocols.  Great progress had been made in pre-school education, with some provinces having established a 15-year free education system by including pre-school and high school in public funding.  Countries must implement the 2030 Agenda, which required developed countries to honour their commitments by increasing financial and technological assistance to developing countries in order to protect children’s rights and interests.  Developing countries, meanwhile, must share their experiences with one another.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the African Group and SADC, said the promotion of children’s rights could not be viewed in isolation from broader development goals.  Children thrived when raised in a strong and secure family environment, and his country continued to implement interventions designed to assist families in coping with harsh economic conditions.  All international conventions to which Zimbabwe was party had been incorporated into domestic law under the new Constitution.  Zimbabwe had several laws to protect children, and had established a victim-friendly system to support survivors of sexual violence and abuse.  The Government was committed to ending child marriages and had set the legal marriage age at 18 years.

NDEYE OUMY GUEYE (Senegal), associating herself with the African Group, supported the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  The campaign had led to the release of children from armed groups in Senegal. The Government had redoubled efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, she said, noting that children’s rights had been taken into account in the development of health care and education policies.  Senegal also had seen increases in school enrolment and drafted a national declaration to advance children’s rights.

Mr. VON HAFT (Angola) recalled that at the General Assembly Special Session on children in 2002, Member States had committed to time-bound goals for children and young people.  Those goals had been followed by the 2030 Agenda and it was essential to maintain focus on children when budgeting for sustainable development.  He listed several international instruments to which Angola was party, noting that his country had also adopted child protection legislation consistent with international standards.  Successful programmes included one that had established free birth registration, and an SOS call centre for children facing violence.  He urged States to review ways in which the new Agenda could reduce inequality among children.

MIRIAMA HERENUI BETHAM-MALIELEGAOI (Samoa) said children’s rights were the utmost priority for her country, as reflected in national policies.  Underscoring the importance of children’s nutrition and education, as well as safety from violence, exploitation, and abuse, she said Samoa had ratified the Convention’s three Optional Protocols and called on other States to do likewise.  The family and community were at the forefront of child rearing practices.  Children were a priority focus of Samoa’s health sector plan 2008-2018, and children under five years of age received free primary health care, including immunizations.  The 2009 Education Act stipulated compulsory education, and the Government had taken initial steps towards implementing free education.  Further, Samoa had passed legislation outlawing corporal punishment, and proposed amendments to prohibit the sale of children and restrict the use of children to sell goods on the street.

ANN DEER, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said daily events in the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Americas, the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere had shown the ongoing suffering of migrants and their families, and too often their needs had gone unmet by the international community.  Migrant children were particularly vulnerable, and for those whose age was uncertain, the individual must be presumed to be, and treated as, a child.  She reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation, underscoring that States’ assessment of the protection and assistance to be offered should be based on vulnerabilities and needs, rather than the location of family members.  ICRC engaged in confidential dialogue with States to ensure they fulfilled their obligations to protect migrant children, and reminded States that detention of any children should be avoided.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, affirmed the Order’s commitment to mothers and babies, as evidenced by its maternity centres in the West Bank, Madagascar, Togo, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, and its efforts to fight malnutrition around the globe.  With the number of displaced persons on the rise, the Order had greatly bolstered its humanitarian aid and medical assistance.  In joint operations with the Italian Coast Guard, its doctors had delivered three babies at sea last week.  It had provided care to 170,000 Syrian refugees in the Middle East and 44,000 in Europe, among its medical services to refugees worldwide.  He pledged the Order’s continued commitment to work with the United Nations and Member States to ensure that children everywhere were cared for, educated, nurtured and protected.

FLORENCIA GIORDANO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, expressed concern about the mass migration of children, stressing that it had led to increased numbers of unaccompanied children who were at much higher risk of violence and child marriage.  Describing gaps in the implementation of child protection programmes, she cited a lack of age- and gender-disaggregated data for children and said a more comprehensive analysis of needs and vulnerabilities was necessary.  Further, support for the family, family tracing and alternative care arrangements must be stepped up, with children’s best interests always the primary consideration in actions affecting them.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, Special Representative and Director of the International Labour Office (ILO) for the United Nations, said that his Office was committed to the protection of children through the eradication of child labour.  ILO provided expertise and contributed to the growing knowledge base that helped inform policy formulation.  Several ILO conventions provided essential protections for children worldwide, including conventions on minimum age of entry into employment and prohibition of forced labour.  Additionally, ILO’s new recommendation on the transition from the informal to the formal economy tackled an area where not only child labour but also most violations of labour, human and child rights occurred.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that instead of advancing the Committee’s agenda, the Palestinian representative had made baseless accusations against Israel, sending a message of hate and incitement.  Those accusations would not bring the international community closer to resolving the core challenges facing the region.

The representative of Russian Federation, responding to statements by the delegations of Georgia and Ukraine, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he recalled that the annexation of Ukraine to the Russian Federation had been in accordance with international law.  Those events were of a historical nature and adhered to the will of the people of Crimea.  The Russian Federation had done quite a bit to improve the lives of those living in Crimea.  The politicized statement by the Ukrainian representative was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

The representative of Azerbaijan rejected the false allegations of his Armenian counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s statement had focused on children, while that of Armenia had focused on Azerbaijan.  The Armenian delegation could have chosen another agenda item to speak about killing of elderly people.  The reality was that Azerbaijani territories were under occupation, and both Assembly and Council resolutions had been ignored by Armenia.  That Government had resettled Armenians from Syria in the occupied territories.  He asked Armenia about recent military exercises, and what Armenian officers were doing in a certain region.  If Armenia was interested in peace, withdrawing forces from occupied areas of Azerbaijan would suffice.  Armenia should end its provocations, as the conflict could only be solved through the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The representative of Armenia, exercising her right of reply, rejected the accusations made by her Azerbaijani counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s goal was the extermination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s aggression had shown the unsustainability of a military solution.  A peaceful solution must be found, she said, in line with existing agreements.

The observer of the State of Palestine noted the “distorted” reality presented by Israel’s representative, stressing that ignoring war crimes committed by Israel constituted a complete denial of human rights and self-determination.  There was a long list of human rights violations committed by Israel.  The views expressed by that Government were dehumanizing and had shown the true nature of the occupying power.  She condemned human rights violations against all children, stressing that all attacks must stop.

The representative of the Ukraine provided an overview of the history and situation of Crimea, drawing attention to early plans by the Russian President to attack Crimea, which had been documented.  The Russian representative had made contradictory statements regarding the status of Crimea.

The representative of Georgia said children in the occupied territories of Georgia were deprived of their right to receive their education in their native Georgian language, and that there was discrimination and harassment of the Georgian population living in the occupied territories.  The absence of international monitoring meant the Russian Federation had no credibility whatsoever.  The conflict had two parties, Georgia defending itself and Russian Federation’s aggression.

The representative of Azerbaijan said barbarism had been committed by Armenian forces in occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and high-ranking officials of Armenia had admitted their responsibility for that carnage.  The President of Armenia had said he had no regrets for Azerbaijani civilian casualties. 

The representative of Armenia said that as far as the right to self-determination was concerned, Azerbaijan had recognized that self-determination should be part of the solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  Armenia was not surprised Azerbaijan put forward false allegations on cease-fires related to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.