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EP elections: what’s next for children?

6 June 2014
Votes have been counted, the results are in. Millions of citizens exercising their democratic right delivered a clear message to national and European leaders: they want more focus on Europeans. But what does this mean for Europe’s role in the world – and particularly, what do these results mean for children’s rights?

Reviewing the aftermath of the election results

As has been reflected on much recently, the European Parliament’s elections results manifest the rise in Eurosceptic and extremist parties. That said, the two biggest political groups retain their majority, despite significant losses. The European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) traditionally support a social agenda for Europe, upholding values of social justice and human development. This Parliament, though, could be more unpredictable and may indeed shift the balance of power in ways we cannot predict yet.

The two brick groups only hold a slim majority, meaning that they will have to work harder on “controversial” issues (where we can include sexual and reproductive health and rights, among others). Other types of national populist groups, such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the French National Front (FN), represent an important part of the electorate and are currently trying to form new political groups amongst each other.

Government leaders are getting caught up in the political heavy-lifting around the establishment of the next Commission. Meanwhile the members of the newly elected European Parliament (MEPs) are currently jostling to become chairs or members of the different Committees. The makeup of these Committees– especially, Development, Human Rights, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and Foreign Affairs – will truly determine the impact of the elections results on children’s rights.

Europe as a leader

Regardless of the results, Europe should not shy away from being a key player in upholding human rights. The world needs Europe to meet challenges that are of common and global concern. That, of course, includes supporting girls’ empowerment, ending violence against children, and backing education for all, amongst many other key priorities. This is not only the Europe we want, but more importantly, the Europe we need.

Despite a natural anxiety, the results also gave plenty of reason to remain calm.  Some key allies on girls’ rights and the so-called “child rights champions” have been (re)-elected, which is indeed a cause for celebration. Their initial or ongoing commitment to step up and defend their pledges provides a strong ray of hope, and may ultimately help establish the counter-balance that is needed for continued and effective work in these key areas in the newly shaped EP.

Other future MEPs, unknown to us so far, should be conscious of their responsibilities, influence and possibilities in shaping that world we all need. Their work will, indeed, make a major contribution in creating a better future for all. The torch has been passed onto these politicians, and how much Europe remains committed to development and humanitarian aid will depend on them.