Reflections from Piotr Sadowski, Volonteurope Secretary General

The fully virtual 2021 EESC Civil Society Days, which took place last week, 1-5 March 2021, were intended to act as a public forum bringing together European citizens, civil society organisations and the European institutions for a debate about the essential components of A Sustainable Recovery for the Future of Europe’s citizens. While delivering on the high expectations of its citizens, Europe must ensure that the ecological and digital transitions are built on the values of solidarity and human rights, social justice, equality, and on education, culture, migration, democracy, participation and entrepreneurship. This is what the Days were all about – and so much more. I am delighted and so grateful for the cooperation we had with the EESC Liaison Group to make the days happen – even if fully online – and especially to our partners who helped Volonteurope deliver an increadibly successful workshop on Youth Activism, systemic change and recovery in Europe. We worked together with the European Youth Forum and the EESC Sustainable Development Observatory, together with a wide range of volunteers and representatives from the Volonteurope family of members and partners, to deliver a very engaging and informative workshop on Wednesday 3 March 2021. Through three breakout sessions, we tackled the important topics of health and socio-economic wellbeing – preventing yet another lost generation, which was led by Volonteurope; human rights, civic space and participation – protecting and strengthening our democracies, led by the European Youth Forum; and beyond recovery – sustainable alternatives to rebuild better, more inclusively, led by EESC-SDO.

Many thanks to everyone to helped us make our workshop so successful. I would particularly like to thank our wonderful intern, Furkan, who, after coming back home from Brussels to Istanbul, to complete his degree, continues to provide Volonteurope with fantastic support. I really encourage you all to read a copy of Furkan’s welcoming speech from the workshop, because it is an important voice of a young European who I am certain speaks on behalf of so many other young people across our continent. Thank you, Furkan!

At the end of the week-long event, I had the pleasure to be part of the closing panel of speakers, who were asked to reflect on the political recommendations coming from the eight workshops which were held throughout the Days. Each one of us on the closing panel was asked about one key takeaway from the workshops, and I would like to share with you what I felt was that takeaway for me: “the one thing that we need to recognise and take forward is that we all need to mindful of the fact that we as people are all equal. The pandemic has shown that it can affect each and every one of us, either through health, our socioeconomic wellbeing or the personal losses of loved ones. We are equal, we should not be broken down into minorities, because as we very well know, including from the way many governments have acted over the course of the last year and before, this gives a platform for stigmatisation and apportionment of blame. When we rebuild, let us always think of how decisions, policies, instruments for recovery, will impact on the life of every person in Europe, whether they are Europeans by passport or by the fact that they indeed have fled to our continent in the hope of a dignified life.”