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News blog12 January 2023Directorate-General for Communication

Year 3 Democracy and Demography

2022 became the year in which war returned to the European continent, just as we were slowly emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It brought unimaginable suffering upon millions of Ukrainian civilians, half of them children. It threatens the values upon which our Union is founded.

Standing by the Ukrainian people, the European Commission acted swiftly by enacting the historic temporary protection directive followed by a communication setting out concrete steps to welcome those fleeing the war in Ukraine. Many of our efforts are directed at the millions of children escaping the conflict, making sure they are protected and provided with access to healthcare, shelter, education and psycho-social support.  

This brutal war also highlights that we need more Europe, not less. The conclusion of the Conference on the Future of Europe conference marked the beginning of a new chapter in Europe’s policy-making. The participating citizens delivered to the Commission 49 proposals on the kind of Europe that they would like to live in. I am proud to state that 80 per cent of the European Commission’s programme for 2023 is based on these proposals. Citizens have literally told us what we should be working on next year! The follow-up event to the Conference will take place on 2 December and three citizens’ panels are already planned for 2023. The future of the European democracy is clear – it is a future in which citizens will have a more active role in decision-making.

Empowering and respecting the young

On 17 June the Commission started to put the citizen’s vision into action through a Communication explaining how to bring the Conference proposals to life. Some initiatives that were already planned were reassessed in the light of the Conference to better respond to the citizens’ demands, such as the “New Better Internet for Kids” Strategy. 

This strategy sets out an agenda to better protect, respect and empower children online, and to encourage them to participate and have a say in the digital world. Sexual abuse of children can take multiple forms, both offline and online. To combat this scourge, we proposed a Council Regulation on preventing and combating online child sexual abuse. Under the legislation, online service providers will be obliged to lessen the risk of their services being used for such illegal actions, as well as to detect and report online child sexual abuse, and remove such online content. The new legislation will help rescue children from further abuse, prevent online material from reappearing, and bring offenders to justice.

Young people are agents of positive transformative change. In September we launched the co-creation process of a European Child Participation platform, which will become a hub for existing and future mechanisms that include children in decision making at all levels in a meaningful and effective way. It will be part of our new one-stop-shop for engagement, the revamped “Have-Your-Say” portal.

Worldwide, we see how the young call for action and trigger change. On 4 October we presented a Youth Action Plan in EU external action to enable the engagement of young people as strategic partners in decision-making. As I am a firm believer in the power of younger generations, I think it is necessary to provide them with the appropriate platforms and civic space to connect and discuss new initiatives, and to act.

We start ageing the day we are born

On 15 November, the world reached 8 billion people. In many parts of the world, this rapid growth of population is also a result of the increase in longevity. Thanks to widespread improvements in public health, nutrition and medicine we live longer and healthier lives.

With this in mind, we have presented a European Care Strategy to ensure quality, affordable and accessible care services across the European Union and to improve the situation for both care receivers and the people caring for them, professionally or informally. The Strategy is accompanied by two Recommendations for Member States on the revision of the Barcelona targets on early childhood education and care, and on access to affordable high-quality long-term care.                     

My work covers the whole life cycle. The 2020 Report on the Impact of Demographic Change laid the foundations of our work on the Green Paper on Ageing, for the ongoing Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas and our upcoming Communication on Harnessing talent in Europe’s regions. We want to propose possible actions at the EU level to support those regions impacted by challenges such as brain drain or population decline. Since the launch of the Demography Report, we have faced many new challenges. It is time for an update which we plan to publish early next year.

Through all our initiatives, and by strengthening the participation of citizens of all ages in policymaking, we help create a stronger, more resilient, fairer and even more democratic European Union. This will contribute to making our democracy fit for the future and indeed to one of the priorities for 2023, emanating from the Conference on the Future of Europe, will be the Defence of Democracy Package.


Publication date
12 January 2023
Directorate-General for Communication