The European Sunday Alliance advocates for including fight against loneliness in the EU agenda

MEP Miriam Lexmann, Sponsor of the European Sunday Alliance, speaking during the Breakfast event on loneliness held at the European Parliament in April 2023. (Photo: ESA)

The European Sunday Alliance held on Wednesday 26 April 2023 a Breakfast event in the European Parliament on the topic “Work and loneliness: Quality resting time for an improved mental health of workers”.

Participants discussed the need for flexibility in the labour market in a post-Covid context, while securing a synchronised weekly day of rest.

The discussion highlighted that a common day of rest would decrease loneliness, improve mental health and allow families to have quality time together for community life, social friendship and spiritual activities.

The event was an opportunity for the members of the European Sunday Alliance to request to the European Commission a study on the positive effects of quality resting time, and in particular of a common weekly day of rest.

In addition, the Alliance insisted on the importance of including this issue into the upcoming Mental health initiative of the European Commission.

The event was hosted by MEP Miriam Lexmann, Sponsor of the European Sunday Alliance and member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL). She stressed that addressing the phenomenon of loneliness should be a priority for EU policy-makers, as well as ensuring more family time for workers.

The meeting also featured the participation of Colin Scicluna, Head of Cabinet of European Commission’s Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, Marie-Louise Coleiro-Preca, President of Eurochild and President Emeritus of Malta, and Stefan-Bernhard Eirich, Federal President of the German Catholic Workers’ Movement (KAB), as well as representatives of trade unions, employer organisations, and key EU stakeholders working on mental health issues.

Scicluna underlined the importance the EU Commission is giving to issues related to mental health and loneliness, the negative role of stigmatization that should be fought by all of us and the concern there is regarding the persons that feel severely lonely and the consequences that this might have.

The President of Eurochild focused on the impact that parents’ work life has on their children: “when having more interaction with their parents, children will perform better academically, avoid addictive and violent behaviours and have an overall better wellbeing”.

Eirich recalled that “life is more than work” and stressed the need for a uniform and clear limitation of Sunday work.

This breakfast event took place in the context of the upcoming European Commission’s initiative on Mental health planned for the second semester of 2023. It was also a follow-up to the Conference on the Future of Europe, which identified mental health as one of the priorities of EU citizens, put in the spotlight by the Covid-19 pandemic. This issue has been addressed also in a recent JRC report on Loneliness in the EU.

On 20-21 April, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of COMECE, participated in the first high-level meeting on loneliness in the European Union.

The event was held on the initiative of Swedish Minister for Social Affairs and Public Health, Jakob Forssmed, within the framework of the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU.

In his contribution, Fr. Barrios Prieto highlighted the positive role played by Churches in tackling loneliness, “creating opportunities for community life, offering spaces for social interaction, arriving to persons and places where other institutions do not or cannot arrive. Promoting community life is key to address loneliness” – he stated.

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