Your Excellency President Iohannis,

Honourable Ministers,

Members of Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

[Children's fundamental rights]

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to take part in this international roundtable.

Today is an important day for the rights of the child. We are celebrating the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child.

The phenomenon of international mobility is an intrinsic feature of today's society. Romania is a country that has experienced a very important exodus since years now. Many of its children have one parent working or living abroad or have been left behind by both parents. It is a well know phenomenon.

I would like to welcome the effort of President Iohannis to look more in depth at this issue.

 Children are rights holders! Their rights need to be protected by law, and through our policies. 

Investing in children is a human rights imperative and it should be a socio-economic priority.

Romania has unfortunately the highest percentage of children living in poverty throughout the Union.

Reducing child poverty and breaking the cycle of disadvantage across generations requires an integrated approach focused on children and their families. This means identifying and removing structural barriers and combining prevention and support.

With its 2013 "Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage" Recommendation, the Commission has encouraged EU Member States to take adequate measures. Let me name a few:

- to improve access to affordable early childhood education and care services;

- to provide adequate income support such as child and family benefits;

- to support children's participation in extra-curricular activities and in services and decisions affecting children such as social services, education, alternative care.

Child care, child support and social protection are also a main principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights, as it was announced by President Juncker in November of last year.

There is no hierarchy of importance among groups of children. All children deserve their rights to be fully protected where ever they are.

According to the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child: "A child whose parents reside in different States shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis, personal relations and direct contacts with both parents".

When parents are living abroad, we know that often children live and are cared for by their grandparents or by other family members. It is in such cases important that the State recognises these care givers and their responsibilities, and that adequate social policies are put in place to support these families and their children.

[New rules to better protect children in cross-border family proceedings - Brussels IIa Regulation]

Allow me to flag also the difficult situation of children coming from international families. Today, more families and couples are made up of people from different EU countries.

When break-ups occur, family members often end up living apart in different Member States. Cross-border parental responsibility disputes can be long,  costly and heart-breaking for the child.

In such cases, the wellbeing of children must be a priority.

To address difficult cross-border situations, in 2016, the Commission proposed to amend the current EU rules on matters of parental responsibility under the so called Brussels IIa Regulation

I hope that the Member States will agree soon the new improved rules. We want to make sure that cross border family proceedings go as smoothly as possible for parents and children.

[Conclusion]

Ladies and gentlemen,

I know Romania quite well as I have lived and worked here for a few years in a previous professional capacity. It is a country dear to me.  

The European Commission works in all areas of EU law to protect the rights of citizens. This includes protecting children’s rights. You can count on our support on this.

Thank you for your attention!