Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Topic Overview ENVI II

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI II)

Girls just wanna have fun-damental rights: Women are chronically underrepresented and under-researched in medicine, which often leads to misdiagnosis and dismissal when they seek medical treatment. Given this gender data gap, how can the EU ensure its female population (51%) receives effective treatment?

Chairperson: Maria Cuder

Introduction and Relevance to the topic

Different studies have shown the persistent stereotype that STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) professionals are white men. Nonetheless, this conundrum does not only affect the society’s expectation of a doctor being a man, but it has affected women’s health in two ways with major implications: firstly, in a lack of research about the female bodies (in comparison with the male one), and secondly, in a dismissal and misdiagnosis when they seek medical treatment. For instance,  less than 2.5% of publicly funded research has been dedicated exclusively to female reproductive health, in spite of the fact that 1 in every 3 women will experience severe reproductive health issues in their life.

On social media, women like Paige Layle on TikTok have given voice to the difficulties that women face in diagnosis, in her case, autism. This is due to the fact that when doctors study autism, they tend to focus on men, that is why men are normally diagnosed in the first years of their lives while women learn to “mask”1Mask: hiding their traits and adopting the behaviors of people around them who do not live with autism.. In addition, Layle mentions how people assumed she does not have the disorder as women tend to have different symptoms that are not as known as the “regular” symptoms of autism that men show.

Nonetheless, this issue is not only affecting some late diagnosis, but also, can lead to a point where women could have a chance of dying because of these situations. Some women´s medical issues are being dismissed by the fact that their symptoms are different than the ones males show. For example, the case of a woman in her 40s, who is diagnosed with anxiety, when in reality, she was having a heart attack. She was told to have no symptoms,when in reality, she did, just not the typical “male” ones.

Key Conflicts

Lack of representation

In academic medicine, where in 2018 for the first time the number of women exceeded the number of men, there is still an underrepresentation at senior academia or leadership positions that cannot be explained by the time lag between finishing their degree and starting their career trajectory. 

More than a decade ago, women achieved parity with men in the number of matriculants in medical schools. Nonetheless, there are still differences in pay, academic ranks and leadership positions for women compared to men in academic positions. It is true that the situation is improving, nonetheless, the progress is slow.

Issues in research

Given that history was dictated by men, it is easy to understand that the background behind this issue lies in the fact that women have had a sense of being “othered” in the human species, which has highly affected their health. This has led society to the point that, in the present, there has been 5 more times research into male erectile dysfunction (affects a 19% of men), than there has been into premenstrual syndrome (which affects a 90% of women). 


A study by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), showed that women who suffer heart attacks are only half as likely as men to receive the recommended treatment. This can be followed by another research by the BHF, which revealed that 8000 women in England and Wales had died of misdiagnosed or untreated heart attacks that they had tried to report (over a 10-year period).

In general, a study has proved that women are diagnosed years later than men for the same disease. Researchers do not know if the later diagnoses are due to genetics, the environment or possible biases in the healthcare system (or a combination of everything). Nonetheless, the issue is there. On average, women received cancer diagnoses 2.5 years after men, and metabolic diseases diagnosis (e.g. diabetes), 4.5 years later.

Furthermore, not only are women diagnosed later, but also, they are misdiagnosed at an alarming rate compared to men. For example, women are 30% more likely to have symptoms of a stroke misdiagnosis and be, erroneously, sent home from the emergency room.

Wrong doses given to women

Some medicines affect women and men differently, which sometimes leads to women receiving excessive doses of drugs. On one hand, the difference between men and women’s bodies is not usually considered (weight, percentage of body fat, hormones etc.). So women and men are given the same dose based on a one-size-fits all dosage, which eventually means that, on average, women are being overdosed on most drugs. On the other hand, the wrong dose is produced by the exclusion of women in certain studies in order to simplify the trials by assuming the men’s body responses stay the same for women.  Besides, the fact that, depending on where the woman is in her menstrual cycle, the variation of hormones “complicates” results, leads to some studies leaving women out in the experiments and trials. 

Toward Equitable Treatments for Women's Health During Coronavirus and  Beyond - Center for American Progress

Between the consequences of these actions, it can be highlighted that eight out of ten drugs removed from the markets in the United States between 1997 and 2000 were withdrawn because of their side effects affecting  mainly or exclusively women. In addition, between 2004 and 2013, American women had more than 2 million drug adverse events, in comparison to 1.3 million for men.

Dismissal when asking for help

Nevertheless, this is not the only way female bodies are put at risk, it also happens when women are dismissed when they ask for treatment as a consequence of the stereotype of women complaining more than men. The gender gap is fed by stereotypes of women being over-emotional and how they exaggerate the level of pain and suffering. However, in reality, it is proved that many women under-report symptoms, and not being taken seriously when asking for a medical treatment, can propagate the notion that what they have is not important, which can have health consequences.

Key Actors

World Health Organisation (WHO): its primary role is to direct international health within the United Nations system and to lead partners in global health responses.

European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE):  a European agency that works to promote and ensure equal opportunities for women and men across Europe and beyond through quality evidence for better policy making. It delivers high quality research and information to support European  institutions and countries in their efforts to end gender inequalities.

European Medicines Agency (EMA): its main responsibilities are authorising and monitoring medicines in the EU. Companies apply to it for a single market authorisation, which is issued by the European Commission. If granted, this enables them to market the concerned medicine throughout the EU and the EEA. Given the wide-ranging scope of the centralised procedure, most genuinely innovative medicines marketed in Europe are authorised by the EMA.

European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH): a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that promotes gender equity in public health, research and social policies across Europe.

Measures in Place

In the strategy on women’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region (2016), measures to be taken by the Members States can be found. Their aim is: 

  • Strengthening governance for women’s health and well-being, with women at the center
  • Eliminating discriminatory values, norms and practices that affect the health and well-being of girls and women
  • Tackling the impact of gender and social, economic, cultural and environmental determinants on women’s health and well-being
  • Improving health system responses to women’s health and well-being

The European Commission has recently agreed on a 25 million euro strategic partnership with the World Health Organisation, which includes support to strengthen problems for maternal and child health. They both are committed to work together to accelerate the progress on reducing maternal, neonatal and child mortality.

Governments like the UK have committed to tackle the gender gap in medicine by dismantling barriers, making senior roles more accessible to women, improving pay transparency and promoting cultural change.

The EUGenMed (European Gender Medicine) have different projects and are taking different approaches to this issue, all of them can be found on their page and are related to current issues. For instance: doing a research project on the impact of the health crisis caused by COVID-19 on gender inequalities in Portugal.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a report from 2017 on how gender equality is necessary to make everyone healthier. In this report, the consideration of future measures to help women is talked about, for example, the need to empower women with negotiation skills in China so smoke-free homes are created that benefit entire families.

Questions to think about

  • How can the EU ensure that there is an increase in the research of the female body?
  • How can the EU address the fact that women are being put at risk after dismissal or misdiagnosis?
  • Which measures can the EU take so that there are enough women represented in academic medicine?
  • Which steps can the EU take so that women receive a right dose of drugs?

Links for further research

Introductory Clauses

The European Youth Parliament,

  1. Concerned by the frequent misdiagnosis when women seek medical treatment  in comparison to men,
  2. Noting with regret the lack of research in relation to the women bodies as a consequence of using the male bodies in order for these studies as a way to “simplify them”,
  3. Bearing in mind that women are underrepresented in higher academic roles, 
  4. Aware that women are sometimes given the wrong drug dosage as a consequence of setting the male body as a standard,
  5. Fully alarmed by the fact that female health issues are sometimes not given enough importance because of the stigmatisation of women as “complaining”,
  6. Acknowledging the fact that, women often receive their medical diagnoses later than men,

Topic Overview FEMM II

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM II)

Girl, online: With one in ten women estimated to have already experienced a form of cyber violence in their lifetime, and the recent leaking of thousands of indecent images of non-consenting women and girls in Ireland, how can the EU ensure that its citizens are safe from cyber sexual harassment given the trend of digitalisation in recent months?

Chairperson: Hannah Rakers (NL)


In November 2020 in Ireland, thousands of intimate photos of women were leaked and shared on the internet. All of the 140000 photos were shared without consent, some also taken without the women’s knowledge, and there were even a number of photos depicting underage girls. Following the giant leak, a bill was passed outlawing the so-called ‘revenge porn’, making Ireland the fifth European country, after Germany, the UK, Malta and France, to adopt legislation specifically targeting the non-consensual distribution of private images. Most other countries depend on more general privacy legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

With a more than 50 percent internet use increase due to the Covid pandemic, women have also increasingly been faced with cyber violence. This has multiple consequences, such as women restricting their online access to avoid forms of cyber harassment. This leads to women excluding themselves from the wide array of essential services and online opportunities offered by the pandemic. It may also lead to censorship, as women feel the need to voice their opinions increasingly online, but are often attacked or discriminated against. As online access is progressively important for social and economical wellbeing, and even more so due to the pandemic, these progressions are worrying to say the least. There are many forms ofcyber violence, all of which tend to disproportionately target women and girls. Most prominent is non-consensual pornography, where intimate images and videos are distributed and often taken without the victim’s consent or even knowledge, The most common form of non-consensual pronography is revenge porn, where an ex-partner distributes intimate images or videos, aiming to humiliate the victim as a revenge for ending the relationship. A newer form of cyber violence is Zoombombing: unwanted, disruptive intrusion by trolls of a video-call, sometimes taking the form of unsolicited sexual footage. All of these fall under the umbrella term of cyber harassment, which can be summarised as sexually explicit or threatening messages, unwanted advances through social media or chat rooms, or other forms of communication that make a victim feel violated. When this harrassment is extra severe, it can be classified as cyber stalking, where repeated incidents undermine the victim’s sense of safety, by means of email, text messages or other online platforms.

Key conflicts

Due to big gaps in research, it is unclear how many people are victims of cyber violence. There is a severe lack of representative surveys, both domestically and internationally. In 2014, the European Agency for Human Rights (FRA) did conduct research on violence against women, which included questions on cyber violence. Unfortunately, as it was the first to collect data on cyber VAWG and internet use has changed drastically since, that data is no longer representative.

Experts have warned against the tendency to classify cyber VAWG as a phenomenon that exists separately from offline, ‘real world’ violence. Instead, it should be seen as a continuum of offline violence, as it largely follows the same patterns. In most of the cyberstalking cases, the perpetrator first encountered the victim in a physical situation and revenge porn is a distinctive form of cyber violence almost exclusively committed by ex-partners.

There is a persistence of victim blaming attitudes, failing to accurately address victim’s experiences and concerns. Victims of cyber violence are often treated with ignorance and indifference, leading to many of them not being aware that their experience of cyberstalking and -harassment are punishable crimes. There is a lack ofmeasures targeting cyber VAWG, both nationally and internationally, with big differences between countries in legislation and enforcement. This stems from both a lack of specific legislation and inadequate police response to the issue. With the absence of a uniform approach by the EU, Member States are not incentivised to adopt more effective measures and international enforcement is near impossible.

Key actors

Women with multiple identities (i.e. LBTQI community, ethnic minority, indigenous) are targeted more often than any other social group, facing discrimination and hate speech. The increased role of the online environment could pose an opportunity to connect globally, but also threatens these women’s political voice, as they feel intimidated by online threats.

Young women and girls are even more vulnerable and more likely to be targeted by certain types of cyber violence, such as cyberstalking and harassment.

European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE): a body initiated by the European Union, specifically focussed on gender equality. With their work, they deliver expertise to EU decision making bodies, supporting better-informed policies.

End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW): a UK-based policy and campaigns organisation, aiming to influence decision-making and public attitudes towards violence against women and girls.

Measures in place

In 2016, theGeneral Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced by the EU, providing a more extensive safeguard for the privacy and security of data. It offers protection for the data of all natural persons but has no specific clauses on for instance intimate footage.

As mentioned, there are various countries that have adopted more effective national legislation in regards to cyber VAWG, such as the UK, France, Germany, Malta, and very recently, Ireland. These are for instance the criminalisation of revenge porn, and stricter measures safeguarding intimate data.

Some countries have implemented national projects focussing on cyber VAWG. The Netherlands established the SafetyNed, which helps victims of cyber violence as a continuance of domestic violence, by providing them with tools to have a safer online experience. Similar projects have been launched in other European countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany.

CYBERSAFE is a project funded by the EU which provides online tools addressing cyber VAWG. This is mostly focussed on the younger generation (13 to 16 years old) and aimed at the classroom setting. Their goal is to promote ‘healthy relationships and gender equality online’ by raising awareness and stimulating responsible online behaviour.

Further consideration questions

  • In what ways has the Covid pandemic possibly influenced cyber violence?
  • How can the EU take a more uniform approach towards cyber violence?
  • How can Member States ensure online activities are safe and secure, especially in this time of doing most things remotely?

Links for further research

  • Cyber violence and hate speech online against women, a publication by the European Parliament done on behalf of the FEMM committee. It’s a large report, but just skimming through it and focussing on e.g. good practices will help in proposing solutions.
  • Cyber violence against women and girls, a report by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), aiming to identify and analyse existing research and the availablity of data on cyber VAWG.

Introductory Clauses

The European Youth Parliament,

  1. Noting with regret that many victims of cyber VAWG do not consider themselves victims or can be too intimidated to report their abuser,
  2. Remembering that online anonymity can make it difficult to prosecute abusers,
  3. Concerned that victims of cyber violence are unaware of the legal action they can take against their perpetrators,
  4. Alarmed that the distribution of private images without consent is criminalised only in five European countries,
  5. Bearing in mind that victims of cyber violence must rely on general privacy legislation such as GDPR which does not make any reference to the non-consensual distribution of private images,
  6. Noting the lack of cohesive and uniform legislative approach at European level regarding measures on cyber VAWG,
  7. Observing that the research on cyber violence incidents, victims affected and distribution across the EU is slow, incomplete and unrepresentative for the current year,
  8. Fully alarmed by the public’s stigma against the victims of “revenge porn” and focus on blame-shifting,
  9. Deeply concerned that cyber VAWG affects girls’ and women’s social and economic wellbeing as they decide not to take full advantage of online opportunities or express their opinion,
  10. Noting that internet usage increased with 50% in pandemic times, also increasing the risk of cyber VAWG,
  11. Taking into account the different legal systems and socio-cultural traditions of EU Members States;

Topic Overview FEMM I

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM I)

From abolitionism to legalisation: The legal landscape of prostitution varies greatly across the EU, with forced prostitution, underage prostitution and unsafe working conditions still occurring across the Union. What stance should Member States adopt in order to safeguard sex workers’ welfare?

Chairperson: Foteini Chatzikyriakou (GR)

Introduction and Relevance

Prostitution, the practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for immediate payment, sometimes referred to as “the world’s oldest profession”, arouses strong sentiment. Around the world, attitudes towards it, how and if it should be regulated, vary considerably, and have varied over time.

Sex workers are of all genders, but most of the time female, and are frequently managed by a male procurer, pimp, or the owner of a brothel. Underage and forced prostitution are a huge part of prostitution, and are usually a consequence of human trafficking. During the period 2017-2018, 14 145 victims of trafficking were registered in the 27 Member States, and over half (60 %) of the registered victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Children accounted for nearly a quarter (22%) of all registered victims, and 64% of the child victims were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, with 78% of them being girls. However, according to the European Commission, the actual number of victims is most likely to be significantly higher than the number registered and reported in these data collections.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), sex workers face an increased burden of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood-borne infections. Globally, female sex workers are estimated to be 30 times more likely to be living with HIV than other women of reproductive age.

Not only the physical, but also the mental health of sex workers is affected by working on the sex industry. Sex workers seeking mental health support  feel that quality, specialised, non-judgemental and free mental health support is not, but should be, widely available. Mental health care professionals’ lack of knowledge about sex work and their prejudice against sex workers, combined with their insufficient knowledge and preconceptions about other issues that concern many sex workers, such as gender identity, sexual orientation, race and cultural differences, and substance abuse are the main obstacle faced by sex workers in accessing quality mental health care. This is why many sex workers believe that mental health support staff should have sex work experience or be trained by sex workers in order to be able to help other sex workers.

Key conflicts

The stereotypes around prostitution are created by cultural and media representations of sex workers and red-light districts, socially conservative ideologies, religious organisations, and certain branches of radical feminism. With the stigma around prostitution being continuously reinforced, prostitutes are being discriminated and socially excluded, and as a result, they are not being heard or taken seriously, so the industry and its problems remain mostly unspoken. Moreover, in countries in which prostitution is illegal, prostitutes do not have access to rights that come with legal employment, such as healthcare and retirement.

International and EU regulations do not take a specific position on prostitution, which leaves the decision up to each country, so the legal and social treatment of prostitution differs widely by country in the European Union. However, it is possible to group the different policies into 5 models, depending on the approach of each Member State: abolitionism (outdoor and indoor prostitution are not prohibited. The State decides to tolerate prostitution and not to intervene in it: prostitution by adults is not subject to punishment, but profiting from another person’s prostitution is criminalised), neo-abolitionism (outdoor and indoor prostitution are not prohibited, but the existence of brothels is), decriminalisation (there are no criminal penalties for prostitution), legalisation (prostitution is both legal and regulated) and prohibitionism (outdoor and indoor prostitution are prohibited and parties involved in prostitution can be liable to penalties, including in some cases, the clients).

However, none of these legislative models seem to be completely effective. The prostitutes themselves believe that the best solution is for sex work to be legalised, get acknowledged as a real profession and be treated like one, since they consider, that only then will they ensure a healthy and safe work environment and safeguard their rights.

Sex tourism, refers to the practice of traveling to foreign countries, with the intention of engaging in sexual activity or relationships in exchange for money. Many EU Member States have become popular destinations for sex tourism, including the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria. Sadly, some of the clients travel to these countries to engage in sexual activities specifically with minors. It is a multibillion-dollar industry, organised both within and outside the structured laws and networks, as the World Tourism Organisation of the United Nations(UN) has acknowledged.

Key actors

The World Health Organisation (WHO), is the UN agency that supports countries in their efforts to ensure human rights for sex workers, and to implement a comprehensive package of HIV and other STI services through community-led approaches

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organisation dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and fights against sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment of refugees.

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF), works on a global and national level and focuses on supporting children and parents. It works directly with children to build their knowledge on how and where to seek help and protection, and with parents, teachers and adults to help them identify signs of abuse and make sure children receive ongoing care.

The Member States, whose legislative approaches on prostitution directly affect not just the sex industry but also the lives of the sex workers.

Brothels are a place where people engage in sexual activity with prostitutes. In countries where owning a brothel is illegal, establishments often describe themselves as massage parlors, bars, strip clubs, body rub parlours, studios, or by some other description. Sex work in a brothel is considered safer than street prostitution, since they “protect” the prostitutes who work for them by making sure that the customers pay or don’t abuse them. However, they often exert control over the workers through intimidation, fear, physical and sexual abuse, rape, torture, and other abusive methods.

The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe(ICRSE), is a network of sex worker organisations and their allies that work together to support the development of national and international law, policy and practice, which respects and upholds the human and labour rights of sex workers throughout Europe and Central Asia.

The sex workers, the great majority of whom want a world where sex work is recognised as work, where all sex workers are respected and their rights are upheld and where gender, racial, social and economic equality and freedom of movement are a reality enabling individuals to start, continue or leave sex work safely, and free from violence and coercion. However, sex workers do not act alone, but through unions and organisations such as ICRSE and TAMPEP (European Network for the Promotion of Rights and Health among Migrant Sex Workers).

Measures in place

The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography is a protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, formally adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2000. Essentially, this protocol formally requires states to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. As of December 2019, 176 states are party to the protocol.

The directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and the European Council on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, has been in force since April 5th 2011.

WHO, with the global health sector strategy on sexually transmitted infections, 2016–2021 sets out a vision, goals, targets, guiding principles and priority actions for ending the sexually transmitted infections epidemic as a public health problem.

Questions to think about

  • What can be done by the European Union to improve sex workers’ mental and physical health?
  • Which legislative model is the most effective one?
  • How can it be ensured that no one is forced into sex work?
  • How can minors be protected from sex tourism and sexual exploitation?

Links for further research

The laws that sex workers really want/ TED talk by a sex worker

Someone you love could be a sex worker/TED talk by a sex worker

Introductory Clauses

The European Youth Parliament,

  1. Concerned by the increased likelihood prostitutes have to experience an unwanted pregnancy, contract an STI or various other illnesses1The effects of prostitution on a sex workers’ health, WHO: sex workers’ health. due to their unhealthy work environment,
  2. Recognising that the lack of professional health care can lead sex workers to developing mental health issues 2Sex Work and Mental Health: Access to Mental Health Services for People Who Sell Sex (SWMH),
  3. Noting with deep concern the lack of harmonisation in the legislative models addressing prostitution among Member States3The different legislative approaches of the Member States are: abolitionism, neo-abolitionism, decriminalisation, legalisation and prohibitionism.,                                                                                                                   
  4. Aware of the number of human beings trafficked in the Member States for sexual exploitation4During the period 2017-2018, 14 145 victims of trafficking were registered in the 27 Member States, and over half (60 %) of the registered victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation(Data collection on trafficking in human beings in the EU).,
  5. Alarmed by the fact that pimps, brothel owners and clients continuously take advantage of sex workers, abusing them psychologically and physically,
  6. Deeply concerned by the number of children being forced to get involved in the prostitution industry5Out of the 14 145 victims of trafficking registered during 2017-2018 in the 27 Member States, 22% of them were children, and 64% of the child victims were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.,
  7. Emphasising the fact that sex tourism is a multibillion dollar industy, in which minors are involved6Estimates from ECPAT International show that each year, approximately 250,000 people travel internationally to engage in sex tourism with children and youth and that the industry generates over $20 billion in revenue.,
  8. Bearing in mind that the stigmatisation of prostitution and the stereotypes about it have led to:
    1. The discrimination of sex workers,
    2. The sex industry not being sufficiently controlled, monitored or regulated;

Topic Overview LIBE

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE)

A Prideful European Union: how should LGBTQIA+ rights be protected in Europe, whilst acknowledging and addressing public hostility and reservations of individual Member States?

Chairperson: Lars van der Ent (NL)

Introduction and Relevance

In February 2019, certain municipalities in Poland started declaring ‘LGBT-free zones’ which, by February 2020, comprised “an area greater than the size of Hungary.” The premise of anti-LGBT zones is that they aim to combat propaganda from a so-called ‘LGBT-ideology’ and promote traditional conservative Christian, pro-family values. Polish authorities say that LGBT-ideology corrupts the youth by  accepting, amongst others, pornography, abortion and sexual criminality. Furthermore, the so-called ‘LGBT ideology’  is seen as an ideology imposed on Poland by the West to destroy the ‘natural’ family. In December 2020, the Hungarian parliament amended its constitution, which now neglects the existence of transgender and non-binary people in order to uphold ‘Christian values’. In addition, Hungary has banned the distribution of content relating to homosexuality and sex reassignment to people under the age of 18. The steps taken by Poland and Hungary have met backlash from the European Parliament and Commission. In reaction to the Polish ‘LGBT-free zones’, the European Parliament declared the EU an ‘LGBT-freedom zone’. In addition, the European Commission launched legal action against the two Member States, suing them before the European Court of Justice. While the policies in these countries expose LGBTQIA+ people to discrimination and put their lives in danger, the discrimination and assault on these minorities extends to the whole of the EU. For example, in the summer of 2021, Spain faced a surge in anti-LGBTQIA+ hate crimes. The European Commission has noted that LGBTQIA+ people are increasingly attacked by politicians, “fuelling hate and prejudice.” The European queer rights organisation ILGA calls attention to a “‘pan-European phenomenon’ of anti-gay violence.” The rise in intolerance is often ascribed to ultraconservative nationalism promoting ‘traditional values’. In the face of public hostility and domestic abuse, what should the EU do to protect LGBTQIA+ rights?

Key Conflicts

Politicians in the EU increasingly use  LGBTQIA+ community as scapegoats to divert attention away from economic problems. One of the causes for this increase is misinformation and hate speech spread on social media. Specific conservative media campaigns by anti-LGBTQIA+ movements promote traditional family values and maintain that the LGBTQIA+ community is corrupting children. The consequence is a surge in homophobia and transphobia. Independent investigations have further found that these media campaigns are financed by foreign influences. What is more, EU Member States differ widely in their views on rights of LGBTQIA+ people. Accordingly, their policies and laws on the protection and promotion of LGBTQIA+ rights vary greatly.

Furthermore, while the promotion of equality is primarily the national responsibility of Member States, the EU provides policy guidance. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published a report in May 2020 which concluded that little to no progress had been made “in the way LGBT people in the EU experience their human and fundamental rights in daily life.” Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, in general, increased from 37% to 43% between 2012 and 2019. The proportions increased more dramatically regarding transgender people: from 43% in 2012 to 60% in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation, especially for queer minors who were forced to stay at home with their families during lockdowns.

Moreover, 58% of LGBTQIA+ people have experienced hate-motivated harassment. The danger of harassment prevents people from expressing their identities, which is a fundamental right – freedom of expression – in the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights. What is more worrying, is the fact that only 10% of LGBTQIA+ people who have experienced harassment have reported this to relevant authorities.

Key Actors

The European Commission is the main legislative and executive organ of the EU. Each Member State offers a commissioner to deal with a certain portfolio. The European Commission proposes new legislation and enforces laws co-legislated by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. However, regarding social policies, it can only coordinate and supplement action taken by Member States, which are responsible for legislation on combatting social exclusion and discrimination.

Anti-LGBTQIA+ movements – sometimes called anti-gender movements – increasingly spread homophobic and transphobic rhetoric and misinformation. Led by religious extremists and ultraconservative organisations, these movements aim to deprive LGBTQIA+ people of their rights and promote conservative ideas of gender roles, sexuality and the family. Politicians frequently adopt these harmful ideas and target LGBTQIA+ people with laws and policies in the name of promoting ‘family values’.

Moreover, local authorities have significant influence on policy implementation. In Poland, for instance, the ‘LGBT-free zones’ were declared by municipalities – while being supported by the rhetoric of the central government. Local authorities often also have the competence to provide laws and policies regarding police forces.

ILGA-Europe is the European division of the international queer rights organisation ILGA. In Europe, the independent non-governmental organisation made up of over 600 queer rights organisations from European countries, including, for instance, the Dutch COC, Slovenian Roza Klub, the Polish Kampania Pzreciw Homofobii and the Hungarian LGBT Alliance. The umbrella organisation aims to promote and protect LGBTQIA+ rights by advocating for human rights and equality, taking legal action in European courts and providing support for its member organisations.

TheEuropean Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is an independent organisation made up of statisticians, legal experts and political scientists concerned with the protection and advancement of human rights in the EU. Some of its key topics are immigration and integration, tackling xenophobia and discrimination and improving access to justice. It collects data and analyses those in order to synthesise trends and patterns relating to, for example, human rights violations in the EU. It also recommends legislation to relevant EU institutions and helps properly implement laws. In 2019, it published a report on the position of LGBTQIA+ in EU Member States which demonstrated that little to no progress had been made.

Steps taken so far

Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU prohibits any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The treaty is legally binding on Member States. Should Member States infringe on the rule, the European Commission has the discretion to initiate legal proceedings against that Member State.  In addition, article 21 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibit any forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Since the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force in 2009, the European Convention of Fundamental Rights has become equally binding on Member States as the treaties. It is enforced by the European Court of Human Rights.

Member States have different laws and policies in place for the protection and recognition of LGBTQIA+ people. While all Member States have adopted legislation prohibiting discrimination, these vary in content and form. Furthermore, some Member States explicitly prohibit the legal recognition of same-sex couples and same-sex civil unions. So far, only one Member State – Malta – has legally banned conversion therapy. Some Member States still have not adopted laws making hate crimes or speech motivated by homophobia or transphobia illegal. What is more, access for individuals to treatment for transitioning their gender differ greatly per Member States. In fact, most gender or sex reassignment practices infringe on human rights such as human dignity, sometimes even requiring sterilisation prior to surgery. In terms of legal recognition, almost all Member States demand mental health diagnosis of gender dysphoria prior to legal recognition for transgender people1Gender dysphoria is a state of anxiety or sense of unease in a person due to a discrepancy between their assigned gender at birth and their actual gender identity. In many cases, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is a requirement for legally changing one’s gender. Increasingly, experts agree that medical requirements are outdated for changing one’s gender and declare that legal gender changes should be based on self-identification and self-determination.. Most Member States also do not legally recognise non-binary genders.

In 2019, the European Commission presented its first-ever LGBTIQ Strategy (2020-2025) with proposals to protect the rights of queer people in the European Union. It is based on four pillars: fighting discrimination, ensuring safety for LGBTQIA+ people, building queer-inclusive societies and promoting LGBTQIA+ rights across the world. Primarily, the European Commission relies on Member States to develop their own action plans to improve protection for queer people.

In 2000, the Employment Equality Framework Directive entered into force, which forbids discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief in the workplace. It is legally binding in the sense that Member States are obliged to adopt laws, measures and regulations necessary to comply with the provisions in the Directive. This means that the exact content of laws differ per Member State. No directive on EU-level exists prohibiting discrimination in other areas of life such as education and social services. Some Member States, however, do have such policies in place.

In 2019, the European Commission presented its first-ever LGBTIQ Strategy (2020-2025) with proposals to protect the rights of queer people in the European Union. It is based on four pillars: fighting discrimination, ensuring safety for LGBTQIA+ people, building queer-inclusive societies and promoting LGBTQIA+ rights across the world. Primarily, the European Commission relies on Member States to develop their own action plans to improve protection for queer people.

Questions to think about

  • How can the EU address anti-LGBTQIA+ violence, keeping in mind that Member States have different attitudes and disparate views towards sexual and gender minorities?
  • How can the EU protect LGBTQIA+ by handling the issue of misinformation?
  • With only 10% of LGBTQIA+ people who experience harassment reporting to the police, how can the EU effectively improve reporting on harassment and violence motivated by homophobia and transphobia?

Links for further research

Introductory Clauses

The European Youth Parliament,

  1. Alarmed about the rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ violence across the European Union,
  2. Deploring the fact that political groups increasingly fuel anti-LGBTQIA+ violence by using sexual and gender minorities as a scapegoat for domestic problems,
  3. Aware of homophobic and transphobic social media campaigns in Member States which spread misinformation and promote traditional values on behalf of foreign organisations,
  4. Noting with deep concern that little to no progress has been made regarding the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ people,
  5. Concerned with the increase in discrimination in the European Union against LGBTQIA+ people in general, and transgender people in particular,
  6. Alarmed that only 10% of LGBTQIA+ people who experience hate-motivated harassment report the incidents to the authorities,
  7. Noting that Member States have disparate views on LGBTQIA+ rights and that laws and policies protecting sexual and gender minorities vary greatly per Member State
  8. Conscious that no framework exists at EU-level which includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as a bias motivation for hate crimes,
  9. Welcoming the first-ever LGBTIQ Strategy (2020-2025) presented by the European Commission,

Topic Overview ENVI I

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI I)

Fast fashion – slow depression: With the fashion industry being responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, what steps should the EU take in order to support the shift towards more sustainable practice as well as make it more affordable and accessible? 

Chairperson: Lučka Koprivnjak (SI)

Introduction and relevance of the topic

Due to the rise of fast fashion, the amount of clothing bought per person in the EU  has increased by 40%. The production of clothes in the fast fashion industry utilises the replication of trends and low-quality materials in order to offer inexpensive styles to the public. The increase in demand for these cheaply made, “trendy” pieces has resulted in an industry-wide shift towards an overwhelming amount of consumption. 

This has resulted in consumers considering clothing as perishable and to some extent disposable goods, leading to an increase in their disposal. Data shows that in the EU, an estimate of 2.2 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2018. 87% of clothes that are disposed of are incinerated or landfilled. This results in mass emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well as causing water and soil pollution. 

Cotton accounts for 43% of all fibres which are used to make clothes in the EU market, as reported by the European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP), and is especially harmful since it requires large amounts of land, water, fertilisers and pesticides. In addition, polyester, a non-biodegradable material composed of fossil fuels, accounts for 16% of fibres used in clothing in the fast fashion industry according to the ECAP. A study has shown that one load of laundry of polyester clothing results in the discharge of 700 000 microplastic fibers. Nearly half a million tonnes of microplastics  are released into the ocean each year. Most of these textile raw materials as well as clothing products are imported into the EU. In 2018, the leading importer of clothes in the EU was China, meaning the products had very long delivery routes and vast amounts of packaging waste.

Key conflicts

Consumer preferences shape what and how fast brands produce. In this case, there are several factors which drive them away from sustainable alternatives, for example, convenience and affordability. Low prices allow for almost all consumers to afford fast fashion clothing which fuels the high demand for these products. Sustainable alternatives are often offered at a higher price-point which may not be accessible to lower socioeconomic groups. 

Furthermore, there is a lack of awareness and information about sustainable alternatives whereas mainstream fast fashion brands are by no means hard to find. If consumer interest and demand for sustainable fashion would increase, these alternatives would become more popular and affordable overall. 

Even though there has been a rise in the popularity of second-hand clothing, fast fashion is generating less durable garments which limits the viability of the second-hand clothing market. As more clothing that is donated and sent to be recycled comes from fast fashion brands, consumers steer away from purchasing these low-quality, used goods. 

Greenwashing is when companies appear and advertise to be more sustainable than they actually are. There is no clear, quantifiable definition to terms such as “ethical” and “eco-friendly”, therefore companies have the ability to find loopholes to make false claims about green production or are purposefully vague with facts when advertising their products. Brands such as H&M have introduced ‘Conscious Collections’  through which they utilise materials made from fruit peels and leaves such as Pinatex. Even though they are advertised as ‘eco-friendly’, these materials contain plastic and petroleum-based agents which reverse any possible positive impact on the environment.  

The media, in particular social media, is one of the most influential platforms for fast fashion manufacturers and retailers. Fashion and lifestyle-related content has flooded digital platforms, speeding up the rate at which fashion trends come in and out of style. Instead of designers and individual retailers setting new trends on their own through new releases, consumers are now doing this themselves and the retailers must speed up their sales to meet the demand. This new dynamic has a significant effect on how the industry operates and often results in wasted products due to the rapid turnover of collections.

Key actors

EU legislation on textiles and clothes aims to incentivise consumers to make more  sustainable decisions. The European Commission legislates on naming fibres used in textiles and labelling to offer consumers protection. It is also engaged in dialogues with non-EU countries on policy and regulatory issues that affect the textiles and clothing industry. Non EU-countries, specifically countries where manufacturing of clothes is based, are particularly significant since this is where most of the environmental impacts are felt. The aforementioned environmental implications such as water and chemical pollution of soil, occur where clothes are made – outside of the EU. 

Fashion retailers  receive fashion products from manufacturers and sell them according to their own guidelines. They provide information about clothing to consumers such as environmental labelling (offering information on CO2 emissions, chemical and water use), as well as instructions on how to wash and dry clothing. 

Member States and policy makers play key roles in advancing the environmental and social practices of the fashion industry. They are becoming more keen on advancing in environmental and social practices in regards to the fashion industry. Policy intervention can accelerate the pace at which the fashion industry is working towards better practices, for example, by applying incentives in favour of sustainability initiatives. 

Non-profit organisations and media have a significant role in educating consumers on sustainability in the clothing industry. For example initiatives such the S4 Fashion: Sustainability for Fashion Industry initiative, as well as tools such as the Fashion Transparency Index or Good On you provide consumers with ratings regarding ethics and information on sustainability of products. 

Measures in place

  • In 2017, the European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) was launched to improve the textile sustainability across their life-cycle from design to the end of use. 
  • The European Commission funded the programme and has worked with several other agencies such as fashion non-profit MADE-BY, to strengthen this initiative around Europe. 
  • The EU also sets European standards for textile and clothing and implements measures such as the EU ecolabel. However, as of now this certification programme is voluntary. 
  • The EU’s Waste Framework Directive requires Member States to set up separate collections of textiles and hazardous waste by 2025 to tackle the issue of harmful disposal. 
  • The EU Strategy For Sustainable Textiles will aid the EU’s shift to a climate-neutral, circular economy where products are designed to be more durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and energy-efficient. A long term goal of these strategies is to make sustainable textiles more accessible and encourage their use in clothing production.
  • The European Parliament has supported, but not fully implemented measures regarding the movement of Slow Fashion. It is typically found in small local stores instead of large enterprises like shopping malls. They release new collections two or three times a year, which means that there are limited styles to choose from. Most importantly, the garments are locally produced by high-quality sustainable materials that last a long time.

Links to further research

Introductory Clauses

The European Youth Parliament, 

  1. Alarmed by the overconsumption of fast fashion items around the world due to the high demand for cheap clothing,
  2. Noting with concern that fast fashion retailers mislead consumers on the environmental impact of their clothing through “Greenwashing”, 
  3. Recognising the lack of accessibility to information on sustainable alternatives to fast fashion,
  4. Regretting that the fast fashion industry mainly uses non-biodegradable materials such as polyester which release microplastics into the environment and are major pollutants of oceans,
  5. Acknowledging the role social media plays in promoting the use of sustainable fashion, 
  6. Deeply concerned that the EU mainly imports clothing rather than focusing on domestic manufacturing,
  7. Fully supporting initiatives such as the European Clothing Action Plan,

Topic Overview DEVE

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Development (DEVE)

Our best shot: with vaccines providing the most promising route out of the pandemic and the threat of new vaccine-resistant variants looming with every new infection, what can the EU do to ensure even access and distribution across the globe?

Chairperson: Lucía Sancho (ES)

Introduction and relevance to the topic

The current coronavirus pandemic has caused more than 700.000 deaths in the EU, as of October 2021, and there have been around 237 million confirmed cases worldwide. Although there are several mass vaccination programmes, half of the population globally still has not received their vaccine dose, and 50 countries did not achieve  the World Health Organisation (WHO) target (having 10% of their population fully vaccinated by the end of September). 

According to the WHO, the first mass vaccination programme started in December 2020. At the moment, 13 different vaccines have been approved by the WHO, e.g. AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen and Sonopharm. Scientists believe vaccination to be the most efficient long-term solution to the virus. Even though the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of the virus, it lessens the symptoms or severity of disease. 

However, some of these vaccines may not protect for as long as they should, due to the many variants of the virus. Moreover, the access and distribution of vaccines among different countries is not equal as there is a large gap between the vaccinated population in Western European countries, Africa, Eastern Europe as well as several Asian areas.

The more possibilities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates, creating more variants. Most of these mutations do not have a huge impact on the abilities of the virus. However, some Covid-19 variants have evolved into more contagious and severe viruses. Scientists now focus on a potential new threat: people who have had COVID-19 may remain susceptible to reinfection, and proven vaccines may, at some point, need an update. Due to this, global access and distribution of vaccines must be achieved as soon as possible, or else the virus will continue spreading, provoking deaths and creating dangerous variants.

Key conflicts

More than 50 countries have missed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target for 10% of their population to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of September. Many of these are low-income countries dealing with health infrastructure issues or suffering from conflict or civil unrest. The others have been affected by natural disasters, making the vaccine distribution process even more difficult. Some of these countries also fail to distribute the vaccine among their citizens before it expires. For instance, 24 countries, almost all of them in Africa, report using less than a third of their vaccines due to this issue. 15 of those report using less than a fourth. The reasons might be the insufficient international help to cover the logistic cost of mass vaccination and the recent news about extremely rare but potentially deadly side effects of some of the vaccines. Although research has not directly attributed any death to any of the Covid-19 vaccines, fake news has become a great barrier to global immunization and has led to anti-vaccination groups. Even in developed countries, such as the US, 33% of the population do not want the vaccine due to the misinformation that is being spread concerning its side effects.  

In addition, there are several difficulties when it comes to the vaccine administration. All the vaccines carry different handling requirements, storage protocols and guidelines for thawing and timing doses. Healthcare workers need instruction about the distribution and  storage of each vaccine. Many countries simply can not afford this training. With the increasing variants and mutations of COVID-19, healthcare workers will need up-to-date training for every new vaccine. 

Furthermore, during the pandemic, each state, tribe and territory has developed its own process for distributing the vaccine to the citizens in their jurisdiction. Non-governmental organisations do not have the power to coordinate the distribution of the vaccines once they have arrived in the country. Although organisations such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared relevant guidance, it is up to each state to decide whether to accept it or not.  Even inside of the European Union, vaccination policy is a competence of national authorities meaning the EU can only assist and recommend actions. Also, compulsory vaccination is an interference with the human right of bodily integrity, which is a part of the right to private life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as in the European Convention on Human Rights, meaning that global vaccination can only be achieved if all governments and citizens agree to it. 

Lastly, even with a proper scheduling system, planning appointments for vaccination is complicated to manage, keeping in mind that vaccine shipments might not arrive or are inconsistent in some areas of the globe. Also, there is a lack of transparency about Covid-19 vaccines, which leads to corrupt networks or even stolen or diverted vaccines. These situations increase the hardships with consistent and safe distribution. 

Key actors

The World Health Organization (WHO) is an agency founded in 1948 that promotes health by keeping the world safe and serving vulnerable countries. It directs and coordinates responses to health emergencies and currently works along 194 Member States.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is an international organisation whose mission is to save and protect lives by promoting proportionate and sustainable use of vaccines. It has helped vaccinate more than 888 million children in low-income countries and has prevented around 15 million possible deaths.

The European Commission (EC) ​​helps to adjust the EU’s overall strategy, suggests new EU laws and policies, controls their implementation and handles the EU budget. It also plays a significant role in supporting international development and delivering aid.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is a global partnership that started in 2017 and aims to develop vaccines in order to enable equitable access to vaccines of infectious diseases and prevent future epidemics.

The Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) is a crisis support fund that helps Member States respond to the coronavirus pandemic by addressing needs in a strategic and coordinated manner at European level. The Emergency Support Instrument is based on the principle of solidarity and pools efforts and resources to quickly address shared strategic needs. The instrument helps mitigate the immediate consequences of the pandemic and anticipate the needs related to the recovery.

Measures in place

Although it is certain that there is no fair access and distribution of the vaccines around the globe, several strategies and  mechanisms have been created to solve the problem. For instance, the European Commission has created the EU Vaccines Strategy in which it secures equitable and affordable access to vaccines to all Member States. It takes a common EU approach, cooperating with individual vaccine producers to buy vaccines, and financing comes from the budget of the Emergency Support Instrument.

As for global cooperation, the European Union has contributed 1 billion euros for the COVAX Facility. Also, the Commission set up an EU vaccine sharing mechanism which allows 27 Member States to share EU purchased doses with third countries. Furthermore, on 21 May 2021 at the G20 Global Health Summit, the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new initiative called Team Europe. This initiative’s purpose is to help create an enabling environment for local manufacturing in Africa and tackle barriers on both supply and demand sides. It will be backed by 1 billion euros from the EU budget and other European development finance institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Moreover, there are many global collaborations to accelerate the development and access to COVID-19 vaccines. Two of these are The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and  the Task Force. The Task Force is a joint initiative from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) aiming to accelerate access to COVID-19 vaccines by offering finance and trade solutions for low- and middle- income countries. They also met with the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturing companies to discuss and express concerns about not reaching their target of vaccinating at least 40% of the global population by the end of 2021. They suggested distributing doses to low- and lower middle-income countries, demonstrating transparency on vaccine supply, eliminating export restrictions and prohibitions as well as regulating streamlining and harmonisation. Finally, there are other organisations and mechanisms such as the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that play a significant role in equal vaccine distribution.

Questions to think about

  • How can new variants of the COVID-19 virus be prevented in order to avoid the need of redistribution of new vaccines in the future?
  • How can it be ensured that low-income countries use their vaccines before they expire?
  • How can the EU increase equal access to vaccines outside of the European Union?
  • How can healthcare workers in low- and lower middle-income countries receive the necessary training in order to efficiently store and distribute the vaccines?
  • How can the EU  ensure that there is enough transparency regarding the distribution and access to vaccines in all countries?

Links for further research

Introductory Clauses

The European Youth Parliament,

  1. Acknowledging the fact that more than 50 countries have missed the Global Health Organization’s target for vaccination,
  2. Underlining the fact that 24 countries report not using in their vaccines before they expire,
  3. Noting with concern the high prices of the vaccines and the logistic cost of mass vaccination programs, 
  4. Taking into consideration that vaccination policy is a competence of national authorities,
  5. Pointing out that healthcare workers need instruction about handling requirements, storage protocols and guidelines for thawing and timing doses for every different vaccine,
  6. Deeply concerned by the widely spread fake news concerning side effects of coronavirus vaccine and the anti-vaccination groups,
  7. Aware of the lack of transparency and the increasing corruption regarding vaccines,
  8. Regretting the current inconsistent distribution of vaccines around the globe,
  9. Expressing it’s satisfaction that the European Commission has created a(n):
    1. EU Vaccine Strategy ensuring access to vaccines to all Member States,
    2. Vaccine sharing mechanism allowing Member States to share EU purchased doses to third countries,
    3. Initiative  called “Team Europe” enabling local manufacturing of the vaccines in Africa;

Topic Overview ECON

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON)

Home is where the slum landlord is: with urban property prices on the increase, some citizens are left unable to access housing, therefore unable to fully enjoy the socioeconomic opportunities offered by European cities. What measures can governments take in ensuring all citizens access affordable housing in urban areas?

Chairperson: Carla Sava (RO)

Introduction and relevance of the topic

Decent housing is universally viewed as a basic human need, being associated with safety, high levels of productivity and wellbeing and great opportunities. However, nowadays it’s increasingly difficult to have a roof under our head, as many European countries are confronting soaring housing prices. Between 2007 and 2019, housing prices increased by 19% across the European Union (EU), conversely wages are not keeping pace

This trend of high prices can be explained from various perspectives. In many large European cities, housing and renting prices have been pushed up by low interest rates, land shortages, an increased consumers’ confidence to enter the real estate market and construction that cannot keep pace with demand

This approach to see housing as a commodity and not a fundamental right have left some European citizens behind in the long run. For almost two years now, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted social protection systems, affecting  people who were already unable to access proper housing: the poorest, the homeless, those in insecure employment and young people .

Additionally, the economic consequences of the pandemic led to the young generation being unable to find a home in an exclusionary and dysfunctional housing market. Living in a major city to study or work is a burden for students, who are competing in this market segment with families and tourists. Small housing units are not a solution either: the average rent for a one-bed apartment can be more than 100% of the income of a young person, as is the case in Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Helsinki
The concept of housing affordability has become a central point of discussion across Europe. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has outlined the importance of a secure and comfortable home for our state of health and mind. Yet for some of us having an adequate house is a pipe dream. Therefore, every effort needs to be made to build on effective and inclusive regulation of the housing market.

Key actors

The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the Eurozone. Its main roles consists of monitoring price trends and assessing risks to price stability, including in the housing market. It also sets negative interest rates at which it lends to commercial banks, controlling inflation and thus raising demand for houses.

Being the executive branch of the EU, the European Commission (EC) proposes laws and policies, monitors their implementation and manages the EU budget. The European Federation of Public, Cooperative & Social Housing Providers is a valuable example of an EU network that focuses on facilitating access to decent housing for all.

The Member States’s governments remedy market failures, including direct public expenditure, and regulation of rent prices. Tenancy law is the responsibility of each MS, which implements national policies based on models of social protection. In particular, cities are at the heart of the Urban Agenda for the European Union, being affected by the housing crisis directly.`

A significant role in this field is played by the private housing sector. In the midst of a housing bubble, the EU real estate market is not a niche investment anymore due to low interest rates. Thus, additional demand in the property sector is created and prices are pushed even higher.

Lastly, the homeless, those at risk of poverty and young people are the focus of this problem. They are monitored and helped by local NGOs and social protection projects. Such a notable organisation is FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless), the only European NGO focusing exclusively on the homeless and the barriers they face including in the housing sector. 

Key conflicts

The right to housing vs disproportionate income levels

International law recognises everyone’s right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing ever since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although 27 MS have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right to housing is stipulated, around 82 million citizens are overburdened by housing costs, spending more than 40% of their disposable income on housing. With an estimated 96.5 million Europeans at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and poor households spending the same or even higher amount on housing than non-poor households, the universal right to live in acceptable housing conditions is greatly challenged.

The COVID-19 Pandemic vs overcrowding housing

Overcrowding and living in close proximity to others during the pandemic is among the highest risk factors for the spread of the virus. Conversely, in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland, over 35% of the population are living in overcrowded accommodation. Young people experiencing poverty are also more likely to face overcrowding in housing than any other category. 

Therefore, people experience physical and mental health problems such as depression and sleep disorders related to a lack of space in their homes, especially during lockdowns. The existing housing overcrowding situation makes it harder to self-isolate and protect from COVID-19 and  contributes to higher infection and death rates.

Housing inequalities and segregation effects on low-income individuals

The primary factor that influences the choice of living remains the socio-economic one. High-income and low-income individuals have different housing opportunities that contribute to increasing economic and social segregation in many European cities. There is a tendency of high-income individuals living near other rich households and poor individuals segregating themselves in less in-demand neighbourhoods. 

This „freedom of choice” is not a real choice, resulting in low-income citizens experiencing ”residential alienation” and  socio-economic segregation effects. For example, medical services are more plentiful in high-income neighbourhoods. Youngsters in poor households have lower levels of educational attainment, higher levels of bad behaviour, and unsatisfactory prospects for the future

Measures in place

The New Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European cities provides a policy framework for integrating and ensuring the implementation of sustainable urban development strategies in Europe’s cities. The document is strongly aligned with the EU Cohesion Policy 2021-2027

The Urban Agenda for the EU is an integrated and coordinated approach to deal with the urban dimension of the EU. In 2016, through the Pact of Amsterdam, EU Ministers Responsible for Urban Matters agreed on this agenda to improve the quality of life in urban areas. Partnerships are established between MS, cities, the EC, NGOs and businesses, with two such partnerships having been launched on housing and urban poverty so far.

Housing Europe is the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing. This network of over 43,000 local housing organisations has provided access to decent housing for all communities in 25 countries. One notable project in collaboration with the EC is the Affordable housing initiative (AHI) which aims to pilot 100 lighthouse renovation districts to create liveable and affordable homes.

The European Social Charter is a Council of Europe treaty that guarantees fundamental social and economic rights including the right to housing, social protection and welfare as a counterpart to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Although limited competences in the housing sector, the EU makes use of „soft power” measures such as recommendations and guidelines dedicated to MS governments. EU policy initiatives aiming to improve access to affordable housing include Principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, Country Specific Recommendations as well as the projects funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

Questions to think about

  • Are there any examples of European countries with functioning and accessible housing systems? If so, what may be the key element for these systems? If not, what do you think is missing for them to function?
  • How can the EU dilemma between its limited competences and real concerns regarding housing policy be solved? 
  • Do you think that social housing systems across Europe are efficient and adequate enough in order to be considered a solution for the homeless and those at risk of poverty?
  • How do you think young people without employment prerequisites can  be considered as solvent as older and more financially-stable individuals to compete in the housing market?

Links for further research

Introductory clauses

The European Youth Parliament, 

  1. Alarmed by the fact that housing prices increased by 19% across the European Union (EU) in the past decade,
  2. Bearing in mind that the low interest rates set by the European Central Bank (ECB) create additional demand in the property sector,
  3. Acknowledging that 27 Member States have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights where the right to adequate housing is stipulated, 
  4. Nothing with regret that the Member State’s response to the EU’s housing crisis is unsatisfactory,
  5. Further noting with deep concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the EU housing systems, affecting:
    1. the homeless population and low-income citizens,
    2. people in insecure employment;
    3. young people,
  6. Gravely concerned by the increasing economic and social segregation between high-income and low-income households across the EU, in the form of:
    1. unequal access to medical services and the labour market,
    2. negative effects on young people’s educational attainment and career prospects;
  7. Fully alarmed that 96.5 million Europeans are at risk of poverty or social exclusion are either homeless or overburdened by housing costs,,
  8. Deploring that 17% of the EU population live in overcrowded accommodation, hindering the need to self-isolate and protect from COVID-19 and contributing to higher infection and death rates during the pandemic,
  9. Expressing its satisfaction with the implementation of the Urban Agenda for the EU