On the occasion of the summit meeting in Brussels on March 8-9, 2007 and against the background of demographic change in Europe, the heads of states and governments of the European Union acknowledged the European Alliance for Families as proposed under the German EU presidency.
The societies of Europe are growing older and the birth rates of nearly every Member State are falling. “The European Alliance for Families is a strong acknowledgement for policy that will make it easier for the citizens of Europe to decide to have children. A beautiful success for the German Presidency!” said Ursula von der Leyen, Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth. “The Alliance for Families should support the European Union and the Member States, in the future as well, in the effort to insure growth, employment, and prosperity in Europe. Business invests where it finds qualified people. Families settle wherever they can find the best balance between work and family life. Family-friendliness plays an increasingly important role in the competition to attract business investment in Germany, in Europe, and internationally,” continued von der Leyen.
The Alliance, with the participation of the European Commission, should become a platform for the member states to exchange opinions and information in the area of family-friendly initiatives. “We can all learn from the family policy successes of other countries,” said von der Leyen. “We should use them as our benchmark while always talking national particularities into account.” The responsible Ministers of the EU Member States will soon begin a close cooperation with the Commission to discuss detailed steps for the implementation of the European Alliance for Families.
Background: The average birth rate in the EU stands at 1.5 children. Furthermore, nearly every Member State reports the following trends: The birth rates have been falling since the mid 1960’s; the number of children drops in proportion to the educational level of the potential parents; the desire to have children is decreasing, especially among men; men and women are seeking gender equality models that permit shared responsibilities for their families. The facts are: In the EU, people would like to have more children than they have. A survey of Eurobarometer in 2006 showed that 50 percent of those surveyed thought 2 was the ideal number of children to have. 21 percent responded with 3 and only a relatively small percentage, namely 8 percent, thought one child was ideal. “In conclusion, only a sustainable family policy can cushion the demographic change in the medium term and reverse it over time. Europe needs more children.”