Katarina Ivanković Knežević is the director for Social Rights and Inclusion at the directorate general for employment, social affairs and inclusion of the European Commission.
In this episode we talk about:
[00:00:35] Katarina’s work in Croatia on the National level
Katarina has been working on inclusion and human rights for 20 years; starting from gender equality and human rights to European topics and concerning pre accession funds for Croatia. She managed to combine two roles at the same time, as she involved in co-creating the system of use of EU funds
[00:02:23] EU policy help with inclusion at national level, what makes EU policies successful
We discussed what national policies are and we focused on the social policies as a guidance. Katarina said that there’s really a compass on how to develop and revise, and how to adjust national policies so that they would be first of all compatible, but also in alliance and to lead towards the overall objectives.
Katarina reflected on the previous European Disability Strategy and and how it provided the disability community with a clear idea where the EU wanted to be in 10 years. Changes in policies and their success can be seen also in the new strategy. Katarina highlighted that this vision oriented approach is even more visible than in a previous one because it gives a time span and way tools and the principles should be followed in order to achieve the goals in the disability area.
[00:06:00] The European Pillar of Social Rights
Katarina called the pillar a really big milestone. The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2017 at the Gothenburg Summit. The Pillar sets out 20 key principles which represent the beacon guiding us towards a strong social Europe that is fair, inclusive and full of opportunity in the 21st century. More needs to be done so that the 20 principles of the Pillar help us build fairer and more well-functioning labour markets as well as good welfare systems for the benefit of all Europeans.
Katarina discussed about the different goals of the pillar like education and employment targets and mentioned that in order to have a long-term vision we need to have high ambition.
“We really need to step up all our efforts to develop skills and reskill to make sure that people have the right skills for the challenges that these transitions are posing to them. The particular attention should be given to those who do not have sufficient qualifications or have a very low qualifications and are low skilled workers and how to help them. Help them compete in the labor market.”
[00:18:00] New employment package for people with disabilities
The employment rate of people with disabilities (aged 20-64) stands at 50.8%, compared to 75% for people without disabilities. The European Commission is preparing the employment package for persons with disabilities. Katarina announced that it will be practically a process. It will be a joint paper of the disability platform and the commission, but it is about the process and about six areas of interventions and six important area that are relevant for the employment of persons with disabilities. And how to help employers with reasonable accommodation and with all the additional aspects that are relevant for persons with disabilities prior and during the employment. So prior to the employment and the recruitment processes and during the employment.
[00:28:00] Example of policies working in Croatia
Katarina talked about the time when the UN CRPD was first introduced in Croatia and how it started different initiatives in terms of, for example deinstitutionalisation or in terms of introduction of the personal assistance for persons with disabilities.
“It was done on the project basis. And the project based does not really work. You need to put the system in place for persons with disabilities to have the access to these services.”
“And I’m really happy now that Croats are in the final phase of the adoption of the law on the personal assistants, because this will give the needed clarity, and this will give the, the right for the persons with disabilities to really have such a support. And this is really one of the best ways towards the independent living.”
[00:38:13] Child Guarantee
The European Commission’s EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the European Child Guarantee are major policy efforts aimed at better protecting all children, assisting them in exercising their rights, and putting them at the center of EU policymaking. Katarina called the Child Guarantee one of the most important documents when it comes to children and reducing poverty of children in Europe.
Katarina continued to describe how the Child Guarantee is organised and the current targets. Furthermore, gave advice to the national disability organisations on how to advocate for the proper quote, inclusion of children with disabilities in the specific countries.
“Inclusive, which means that children with disabilities should be involved and enrolled in mainstream schools. Because we truly believe that integration is the key element and integration should start from age zero until the old age.”
“There is a high number of children with disabilities still in Ukraine, still in various institutions. And this is also something that we are very concerned about”
[00:53:39] EU care strategy
The Commission hopes to put into action the European policy initiative on long-term care that has been in the works for some years. It is also part of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan’s commitments.
Katarina mentioned that there are currently two important elements, revision of the Barcelona targets which are targets on the enrolment of children in the early childcare education and systems, and the other element is long term care.
[00:59:44] Support available and how is European Union helping Ukraine
Katarina briefly reflected on the times of crisis when the COVID pandemic started and also her experience she lived through in Croatia during the war in the 90′. She said that war brings the worst out of people in so many ugly ways that it’s unbelievable and that it takes time to heal and to recover. And that these are really the worst moments of the human history.
On the EU level, Katarina said that from the day one, many initiatives were created in order to see how to help people in Ukraine and refuges. She said that the EU is aware of the challenges member states are having and that for the first time in history, the temporary protection directive was put in motion.
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