Chapter 4 :

Older Persons' Self-Advocacy Handbook

An Online Toolkit to engaging in processes
on the human rights of older persons

CHAPTER 4 - How does the European Union provide for older people’s rights?

CHAPTER 4 - How does the European Union provide for older people’s rights?

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights lists the civil, political, social and economic rights, which are recognized by the European Union. The Treaty of Lisbon gives the Charter the same legal value as the other main EU treaties. Under the heading of equality, the rights of older people are covered: “The Union recognises and respects the rights of the elderly to lead a life of dignity and independence and to participate in social and cultural life” (Article 25). The Treaty of Lisbon moreover allows for the EU to accede to European Convention on Human Rights.

AGE identified 12 main areas where the EU is acting to promote seniors’ rights and support Member states26. These include:

  • Active citizenship
  • Anti-discrimination
  • Employment
  • Education and life-long learning
  • Coordination of social protection systems
  • Pensions
  • Social inclusion and participation
  • Volunteering
  • Health promotion and coordination of health care systems
  • Research and innovation
  • Accessibility of goods and services
  • Consumers’ rights

In some of these areas the EU can adopt legislation. For example, in 2000, the EU adopted a legislation (called directive) to combat discrimination in employment, prohibiting discrimination of older workers in the labour market. According to this directive, Member States can apply exceptions to this rule, for example setting age limits to enter a specific occupation (for instance to become a fireman). The Court of Justice of the EU plays an important role in monitoring whether these exceptions can be justified or they are violating the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of age and the Charter of Fundamental rights.

In other areas the EU supports cooperation between countries, as for instance in education, pensions or volunteering. The EU also helps Member States to agree on common targets in the areas of poverty reduction and climate change. It also protects seniors’ rights through its funding programmes, for example in the fields of research and development, regional development, or social policies. Such policies and projects set up by the EU make a large impact on the situation of older people in Europe.

This part of the handbook will be developed in 2017. Until then you may read AGE publication ‘Active Senior Citizens for Europe’ explains in details how the EU impacts older people’s rights in each of the 12 areas. You may also look into the outcomes of the project 'Active Senior Citizens for Europe' project, which include a set of train-the-trainer modules aiming to explain and clarify to older people what the European Union is, understand its decision-making processes and how they and civil society organisations can engage with them.