INTAMS review | Volume 14 | Issue 1 | Spring 2008 | Pages 112 > 116
FAFCE – A Lobby
for Families in
• The Federation of Catholic Family Associations in
The Federation of Catholic Family
Families have the right to form associations with other families and institutions in order to fulfil the family's role suitably and effectively, as well as to protect the rights, foster the good and represent the interests of the family. (art. 8)
In the Charter of family rights which celebrates its twenty-fifth birthday this year families are called upon to organise themselves and to represent their interests on all levels.
In the European member states of the European Union there is a rich tradition and a great variety of confessional engagements for families. Catholic family associations and organisations are active on a communal, regional and national level in nearly all European countries.
growing economical and political unification of
In 1990 the
catholic family associations from
The unifying link of FAFCE is the basic conception of matrimony and family all members share. According to that vision, the family is the fundamental core-community of each and every society. The family is for FAFCE the first and crucial socialisation space where the human being is accepted without reservation and gains fundamental confidence for his or her future conduct of life. Every human being learns to unfold his or her potential only in relation to others. Thus family has an intrinsic value which must be preserved and supported. Here FAFCE does not only take the classical nuclear family into consideration but also the important bond between the generations.
For FAFCE matrimony is the fundamental social form of a stable partnership. A partnership between husband and wife based on matrimony and serious commitment and conceived for duration is the ideal foundation for the realisation of the child’s best interests. Though the institution of matrimony between husband and wife is not constitutionally protected in all European countries it nevertheless constitutes a common cultural heritage. This fundamental conception of matrimony and family is the basis for the right of families to support and assistance by society. Each member association of the FAFCE has its own experience how this conception of family is accepted in its own country and how accordingly it gets social and socio-political support.
But finally all families in modern societies have to face important new challenges and are continually exposed to instances of structural inconsiderateness. The key task for the catholic family associations in these societies consists in disclosing these structural incompatibilities and to demand their removal on a political level. The accomplishments of families for society are not adequately appreciated, be it by the fiscal system, direct transfer payments or the access to child care facilities.
Whether the intrinsic value of the family is adequately appreciated can be measured by means of two criteria: freedom of choice and the principle of subsidiarity. It is crucial that the general political framework leave sufficient leeway for families. Do parents really have freedom of choice and how to cope with their right to and the responsibility for child rearing? Do families really have the possibility to establish stable living conditions? Families need financial security in the framework of a fair equalisation and compensation of burdens but also the availability of care facilities for children and elderly family members as well as assistance to enable parents to bring up their children self-dependently. The vital question is whether a balanced equilibrium of time, money and infrastructural help has been achieved in a society for families with respect to freedom of choice and subsidiarity. Hence it follows that family policy is always a cross-cutting policy related to many departments.
Need for Action
In the countries of the European Union there are manifold traditions how to organise family policy. Generally family policy is closely linked to the national identity. It is in the responsibility of the EU-member states. Nevertheless the European countries have committed themselves concertedly in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will achieve greater binding character through the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon granting the family "legal, economical and social protection". The shaping of family policy depends largely on the concept of family that prevails and on the resulting action.
there are three types of family conceptions identified for
Typing and standardisation surely are seldom adequate but they are helpful when it comes to understand in the Europe-wide exchange that besides very different economic postulates there are also important mental preconditions determining family policy in the different EU-countries.
Today debates concerning family policy in European countries are seldom focussed only on the concept as to how one could strengthen and support the family as a constitutive unity of society. Debates on family policy are characterised by differing motives superposing as a general rule the concept that is represented here, serving primarily the interests of economy.
The following debates dominate in the discourse about the family:
• The equal opportunity debate: how to implement equal opportunities for the genders on the labour market, how to counterbalance the wage and pension differentials caused maternity leaves and by unequal initial chances of the genders.
• The education debate: It is postulated that educational and child care institutions compensate educational shortcomings of the family resp. the parents, establish equal opportunities, further integration, achieve prevention against child neglect and juvenile delinquency. Frequently people forget that first and foremost parents should be strengthened in their competencies and that for disadvantaged juveniles assistance by a social worker coming to the apartment makes often more sense than to overload our educational institutions with too many problem areas. Often schools and child care institutions are confronted with high expectations as to how to achieve all this. The work of matrimony and family founding on the other hand are too seldom appreciated and financially supported.
• The debate on the securing of the social systems: Family policy is being subordinated to the motive of the securing of the social systems. In the light of the demographic development it is primordial – according to popular belief – to increase the employment rate to secure the pension schemes and healthcare systems as well as the unemployment insurance. As a result maternity leaves are kept as short as possible, child care institutions for children under 3 are upgraded and the concept of the unique breadwinner is declared a phase-out model so that every man and every woman may claim individual rights in the social security system. The increase of the employment rate is also seen as a means to prevent poverty as well as for the securing of the business location by the availability of manpower.
To conclude: The concept of working parenthood dominates the debates. Neither the freedom of choice for families nor the subsidiarity play a prominent role. Here FAFCE sees one of its most important tasks: to introduce freedom of choice into the political debate.
Each member association of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations disposes of specific experience of how to achieve this. In reciprocal exchange they analyse together the motives and develop arguments for the promotion of their concept. It is particularly the exchange with the East and Central European countries that is important because these countries in full transformation have to completely reconstruct their social systems after the demise of the socialist regimes. The catholic civil society stands at the very beginning of its political lobbyism for families. The exchange within the network of the European Federation facilitates the accompaniment and the support all the way from charitable propositions existing frequently in the congregations and catholic family centres to a political advocacy for the families.
Lobbying for the Family at the Institutions of the EU
There are no direct competencies for
family policy at the EU; it is however striking that problems relating to the
family have often become a matter of commission memoranda.
Moreover the initiative of the German Presidency of the European Council to
constitute a "European alliance for families" indicates that there is
a new sensitivity for the family topic. This development was triggered by the
question discussed throughout
There are many
EU policies and initiatives having an indirect impact on the policy for
families and that is why there is a need for a representation of family
interests also on a European level. To mention is here e.g. the Lisbon-Process
which is destined to lead to a continual amelioration of living and working
conditions within the EU. In line with this strategy it was stipulated that the
female activity rate in all countries ought to be raised to 60 %. The agreement
on political goals of the 2002
The following policy areas in which the EU has obtained subsidiary competencies in the meantime reveal that the policy initiatives of the EU institutions often affect the policy for families.
• Employment and gender mainstreaming policy: The road map for gender mainstreaming 2006-2010 gives high priority to the reconciliation of family and work.
• Social protection measures: Here also the reconciliation of family and work is brought to the fore in the consultation process with the social partners. Also the European minimum standards in the directive on parental and maternity leave which are scheduled for revision in 2008 affect national family policy.
• Within the internal European market there are debates on the social services, aimed at creating a single free market for services which also concerns childcare institutions and other parochial services.
• A strategy to combat poverty and social marginalisation: scrutinising particularly the situation of single parents who are concerned by an increased poverty risk.
The dominating family concept of working parenthood may certainly not be confined solely to the original area of competence of the EU namely the economic and market oriented sector but also to the general tendency to strengthen and to protect individual rights.
Here FAFCE sees its task to broaden the field of vision and to focus the perspective on a sustainable and integrated family policy, characterised by freedom of choice, appreciating family as the core unit of every society and abolishing the discrimination of families in the social systems. The demographic problem can only be solved through a change of perspective.
There are many areas
in which the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in
will introduce the perspective of families into the process of social agreement
its commitment FAFCE has the backing of all – female and male – Europeans who attach
great importance to the family. As the highest priority second only to health
they name family as an important commodity with 97 %.
In order to create a citizen-centred
 Available online
 To wit: the Lisbon strategy, the flexicurity debate, the open method for the coordination of social protection, the development of integrated guidelines for growth and employment, just as the consultation on social reality in Europe as well as the European Year for the combat against poverty and social marginalisation which was proclaimed for 2010.
 The members are: Germany: Familienbund der Katholiken (FdK); France: Confédération Nationale des Associations Familiales
Catholiques (CNAFC); Ireland: Family Solidarity;
Italy: Forum delle
associazioni familiari (FORUM);
Austria: Katholischer Familienverband Österreichs (KFÖ); Slovakia: Hnutie Krestanskych Rodin
na Slovensku; South
Tyrol: Katholischer Familienverband Südtirol (KFS); Hungary: Magyar Kathoikus Csaladesyesület;
Czech Republic: Association of Family
Centres (ACER); associated member organisations: Spain: Foro Espanol de
 A stable partnership of the parents reduces the poverty risk, facilitates a better reconciliation of work and family life and is essential for the development of a personality and the capacity for attachment in the child. See N. Wilbertz: "Wir wollen niemals auseinandergehen…", in: Beratung Aktuell, 8/4 (2007), 218-239, see also: Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community: Proposal for a Strategy of the European Union for the Support of Couples and Marriage, Brussel: COMECE, 2007.
 Charter of the Rights of the Family, art. 9: "Families have the right to be able to rely on an adequate family policy on the part of public authorities in the juridical, economic, social and fiscal domains, without any discrimination whatsoever."
 1) Today the securing of daily life is connected to higher risks: high flexibility expectations in the working world, cross-national commuterism, a high percentage of temporary employment, and an ever increasing proportion of people who despite their work can’t assure a livelihood. 2) Modification of attachment behaviour: late partnerships, today relationships are not any more based on classical role patterns but on individually negotiated and organised living conditions of the partners, disintegration of the family through break-up of the parents or the death of one parent, the proportion of single parents increases.
 Charter of Fundamental Rights
of the European Union (available online from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/charter/pdf/text_en.pdf;
 P. Donati: "Modernising Family Policies in the European Union A New Relational Approach", in: INTAMS Review 12 (2006), 227-243. Here the types are characterised as "the liberal type", "the work-oriented socialist type" and as "the corporative type". See similarly also C. Linzbach: "The Political Significance of Family in the European Union", in: Stimme der Familie 50/11-12 (2003), 5-8; 51 (2004), 7-10.
 European Commission: Green Paper: Confronting Demographic Change: a New Solidarity between the Generations, 2005 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/news/2005/mar/comm2005-94_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008 ); Idem: The Demographic Future of Europe – from Challenge to Opportunity, 2006 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/news/2006/oct/demography_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008); Idem: First Stage Consultation of European Social Partners on Reconciliation of professional, Private and Family Life, 2006 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/news/2006/oct/consultation_reconciliation_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008); the second stage is scheduled to continue until end of March 2008; Idem: Promoting solidarity between Generations, 2007 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/news/2007/may/244_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008), poses also the question of the reconciliation of family and work
 European Commission:
 In 2000 the European Council formulated the goal to make the EU until 2010 the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economic area worldwide. Durable economic growth shall be reached by more and better employment and lead to greater social cohesion. A triangle of employment, economic reform and social cohesion was planned. A campaign for better education and lifelong learning are also part of the Lisbon-Process.
 Final conclusions of the European Council, March 15-
 Women and poverty in the EU, EP resolution on women and poverty in the European Union 2004/2217.
 European Commission: Green Paper: Confronting Demographic Change; Idem: Green Paper on Applicable Law and Jurisdiction in Divorce Matters, 2005 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/doc_centre/civil/doc/com_2005_082_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008); Idem; Green Paper: Modernising Labour Law to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Ccentury, 2006 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/labour_law/docs/2006/green_paper_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008).
 European Commission: Commission Legislative and Work Programme 2008, 2007 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/atwork/programmes/docs/clwp2008_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008); R. Liddle/F. Lerais: Europe's Social Reality: A Consultation Paper from the Bureau of European Policy Advisers, 2007 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/citizens_agenda/social_reality_stocktaking/docs/background_document_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008).
 Eurobarometer 67, 2007 (available online from http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb67/eb67_en.pdf; accessed 31 March 2008) reports that 97 % of the Europeans say that family is important to them (health takes first place, employment comes third with 84 %, religion 52 %, politics 42 %); contact persons in case of illness, for advice in personal matters, for help in financial bottlenecks or impairments of health are still family members, i.e. the generational structure is still functioning.