A majority of EU parliamentarians has signed a declaration stating that homelessness should be eradicated in Europe before 2015. But it seems that there is a long way from the promising words of a declaration to real action.
Within seven years, homelessness in EU member states must be a thing of the past. That is the content of a declaration that 438 out of the European Parliament’s 750 members signed before the summer recess.
The declaration, signed by several Danish EU parliamentarians, has become a reality under pressure from Feantsa, a European network of organizations working with the homeless. And Feantsa is not going to rest on it’s laurels, if the ambitious goal of the Declaration is to be realised. While it will continue to put pressure on homelessness organisations, there is an imminent risk that the words of the Declaration will remain empty and non-binding. So says Preben Brandt, a specialist in psychiatry and chairman of Project Outside, who works with the homeless on the streets, and has been a member of Feantsa since 1997.
– As a whole, I think it is good that parliament is dealing with some issues, but it is and remains a “hot air” statement, he says.
The EU experts agree with him in. A statement signed by members of the European Parliament may well have a positive effect, but it does not oblige in any way, says Michael Østergård Pedersen from the Danish EU Information Centre:
– It is likely to have a certain effect that a majority of the European Parliament has voted for a declaration such as this. Legally, it is not binding, such as a regulation, directive or law in general. One must assume that such a declaration must first and foremost raise awareness about an issue.
The same tone sounds from Peter Nedergaard, a professor and expert on EU issues at the Copenhagen Business School:
– The value of such a declaration is that it raises awareness of a problem, and it can later press politicians to do something, but it is not legally binding on any party.
Months of lobbying
For the declaration go from being “hot air” to real action working with the homeless, it requires, according to Preben Brandt, a closer cooperation between the organizations within Feantsa.
– The declaration will count for nothing unless we work together in cooperation, for example, in Feantsa auspices. In addition, national and local politicians must also pay an interest in the matter, he says.
The invitation is welcomed in Feantsa’s headquarters in Brussels, where the lobby is far from over with the 438 EU politicians’ signatures.
– Although it took months of lobbying, the European Parliament’s adoption of this statement is only a start. Now it is for us to follow up to ensure that the problem of homelessness remains high on the political agenda, says spokesperson Charlotta Odlind from Feantsa.
Advising members of the European Parliament, who want to discuss homelessness with politicians, authorities and other stakeholders in the home, and continue to press to hear how the EU Commission and other relevant European institutions will be a positive step for Europe’s most vulnerable .
– Luxembourg has Feantsas member that, among other things, held meetings with MPs, the Luxembourg members of the European Parliament and key representatives from civil society to discuss how the promises of the Declaration can be implemented. In Milan, homelessness organisations based on the Declaration of the European Parliament, asked the local authorities to ensure that their work is directed at the eradication of homelessness by 2015, says Charlotta Odlind.
The Declaration states:
EU institutions and bodies must work to eradicate homelessness by 2015. EU Commission calls for the development of a European definition of homelessness, and by ensuring that all EU countries collect comparable statistics, the number of homeless can be followed. Finally, it invited Member States to draw up winter preparedness in relation to the homeless.
The European Federation of National Organisations working with Homeless receives support from the EU Commission, and aims, among other things through lobbying, to focus on the homeless problem in Europe. 100 organisations from 30 countries are members of the Network.