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Childcare is a 21st century public service – it gives children a great start to their education and learning to live and play with other children, and it frees to look for paid work, it creates work, it brings together the community.

In 2007 the Party of European Socialists ran a campaign to encourage governments to fulfil their commitment to EU targets for childcare places (targets set in 2001 to provide childcare places for 30 per cent of 0-3 year olds and 90 per cent of children 3-school age by 2010). Childcare features in the PES principles for a New Social Europe.

So the PES is furious that the conservative Czech Presidency are asking whether the EU should ditch its childcare targets.

PES Women Executive issued a statement saying they “strongly oppose any watering down of the EU childcare targets.”

The issue is due to be raised at an informal meeting of EU family ministers on February 5 in Prague.

A Czech Presidency discussion proposes to open a debate about the “relevance” of paper EU childcare targets and contains no mention of the possibility of actually stepping up efforts to increase or improve childcare services.

Zita Gurmai, President of PES Women said “The EU should be looking at how it to help increase the quantity and quality of childcare, not trying to ditch targets just because some member states are failing to achieve their commitments.”

PES President Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said “At the start of the Czech Presidency the President of the Czech Republic wrote that the EU should be cutting social and environmental standards. Now we see the Czech Presidency are trying to put that into practice. It is unbelievable that the Czech conservatives want Europe to cut childcare when people are already suffering job and pension cuts. I challenge the European conservatives – the EPP – to say where they stand. Do they want to force mothers back to the home or force even more working parents to pay for private childcare?”

The PES encourages anyone who cares for childcare to let the Czech Presidency – josef_jirkal@mzv.cz – know why EU childcare targets are relevant, and why you oppose ditching EU childcare targets.

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