Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-03-23-Speech-4-051"

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". Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for a debate which has shown that demography is one of the most important issues facing Europe today, and which has shed light on the issue in many ways. I feel that we have had clear confirmation of the basic view that this is a matter of fundamental change, requiring a holistic or mainstream approach, as has been stated. At the same time, consideration has been given to various aspects of the wider problem. For example, it was stated that the Green Paper does not pay equal attention to two sets of problems, which is to say the problems in respect of the health sector and the problems in an international context. You may have noted from my report that the international context is to be covered in the regular reports, since from this standpoint a specific preliminary response already exists. The question of health is one of the most fundamental of all and I feel that the debate has inspired us to develop our thinking in this area further in the future. This problem raises not only technical and organisational issues, but also a whole raft of ethical issues, since an ageing population will increasingly create situations where people are living in extreme circumstances through a combination of fate and their personal state of health. This means that an appropriate ethical response will be very difficult to find, requiring a great deal of profound reflection. I think it was also clear that one issue on which attention was focused, in my view justifiably, was the question of children and the very low birth rate and how we might change or at least influence this. It also emerged clearly from the debate that that this was a general European question, since despite the fact that Ireland, for example, has at present the highest number of live childbirths per woman of childbearing age, it has also recorded a decline over the past 20 years sharper than just about any other country, and the current level is not sufficient to maintain demographic stability. There are, of course, other states which are in a far worse position and where the situation might become extremely difficult within a few generations. It is also clear that we must give very serious consideration to the fact that not every society is people friendly. There is an old Roman saying ‘Inter arma silent Musae’, in other words when society is under any kind of stress or in an extreme situation, creativity suffers. In my view, having children is a matter of profound need and profound desire. Educating children and caring for them is also, in its way, an activity that requires very high levels of creativity, and it is clear that European citizens, if they are to decide in favour of having children, need greater security in a world that is undergoing enormous change. The debate also touched on questions of gender balance, in my view justifiably. Allow me to mention one single item of information taken from a Spanish study: ‘in Spain men devote 52 million hours a year to taking care of dependent persons, that is to say children or elderly family members. Women devote 200 million hours a year to this type of care’. So the burden, which is a common one, falls very unequally, with women taking a fourfold share. I think that these too are questions that we must examine. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for the discussion and for a very concise report which shows that there is a striking tendency towards convergence in our approaches within the context of social and political thinking on Europe. In my opinion this gives hope for a coordinated position capable of overcoming the frequently troublesome changes following elections, as five years is a very short time for many issues."@en1

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