ESU in times of the COVID-19 pandemic
Digital ways to stay in touch in the ESU
Immediately after our ESU meeting in Prague (5-7 March) we were concerned about the developments of the COVID-19 virus, not only in our own country but also in the whole of Europe. We realized it was more important than ever to maintain contacts within the ESU.
To keep in touch we relied on a variety of media:
– Our ESU Facebook page is almost daily updated. And besides our own page, we could also follow the activities of our associations, because several senior associations have their own Facebook account which enables us to follow the initiatives of – for example – our Finnish member association “Kansallinen Seniorilliitto” or our Cypriot association “Senior Citizens Organisation of Cyprus”.
–The ESU Newsletter was our most comprehensive communication tool during the pandemic; we started in April and wrote two newsletters about the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the older generation. The focus was on Respect for older persons’ rights. We are proud to say that our newsletter became ‘an interactive communication tool’. Colleagues from different countries reacted to our Newsletter and we shared their stories. Our ESU members could read how people in some countries suffered deeply, but also how they developed innovative forms of solidarity and how all people were certain that they would somehow overcome the crisis.
For a complete overview find the newsletters on our site.
– The EPP also took initiatives to give the ESU a voice through online communication within the ‘EPP family interviews’. ESU president An Hermans had a Skype meeting with EPP policy advisor Nathan Shepura on the 29th of April. This meeting has been viewed and shared many times. Please find the Skype meeting here.
Expressing seniors’ concerns
-On this year’s European Day of Solidarity between Generations (29th of April), we underlined the need for solidity to overcome the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus. Especially when intergenerational contacts are limited for a certain period of time, we need to stress that solidarity, including intergenerational solidarity, is a pillar of the European social and economic system. You can find the letter of our president An Hermans on the occasion of this day here.
-In a letter to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Vice-President Dubravca Šuica and EPP President Donald Tusk, the ESU expressed its concerns: respect for human rights, special attention to long-term care and a request for support for the digital training of senior citizens in the context of lifelong learning.
We received positive reactions and a supporting letter from EPP President Tusk:
‘The EPP is very grateful for the important work ESU is doing to keep in contact with our senior citizens, exchange best practices and put forward concrete proposals to tackle together the challenge represented by the COVID-19 virus.
As you point out in your letter, only by acting together as a Union will we be able to fight this unprecedented health and economic crisis and emerge from it stronger than ever, protecting both our citizens and the European project. Seniors are among the groups of people the most affected by this virus as well as by its social consequences.
As EPP, we remain committed to protecting the most vulnerable among us, ensuring equal access to healthcare and promoting solidarity among member countries but also among generations. Once the emergency is over, we will have to rethink our health systems, our workplaces and the functioning of our economies and societies and I count on ESU to continue providing us with its precious input to this end.’
Several member associations were inspired by our initiative and took similar initiatives in their home country.
4th of July: ESU videoconference for the members of the Executive Committee (Ex-Co)
For 10 years the members of the ESU Ex-Co met for the Summer Academy (SA) in Vienna. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and together with our Austrian colleagues of the Österreichischer SeniorenBund (ÖSB) we decided to cancel our SA, planned for 1-4 July 2020. As we are not yet able to decide exactly what our ESU activities will look like in the coming months, we felt the need to strengthen contacts with our members and organised a videoconference on the 4th of July.
At the agenda for the videoconference:
- Overview of the ESU initiatives since the last meeting of the Ex-Co in Prague (5-7 March) by our president An Hermans;
- Statement by Claus Bernhold, Deputy Chairman of the Senioren-Union of the CDU in Germany, concerning the German presidency of the Council of the EU for the next six months. The statement is available in German & English.
- An analysis by Prof. Steven Van Hecke (KULeuven) of today’s EU challenges, member states’ reactions, ‘Coronationalisms’ and the need for cooperation towards recovery. Please find his Power Point here;
- Heinz K. Becker (ESU vice-president, former MEP) concerning the EPP party’s initiative to prepare a ‘vision text’ for the next EPP Congress and some opportunities for the ESU to cooperate in the development.
- Secretary general Guido Dumon regarding the agenda of the coming months and announcing the first draft of the resolution that the ESU wants to submit in the EPP Political Assembly of September: ‘Europe’s Recovery. For fair and resilient societies, including all generations’
- Interventions by several participants about the situation in their country
In this COVID-19 pandemic all of us were confronted with a wide range of unforeseen difficulties. Organising and participating in a videoconference also brought us into a ‘learning situation’ with some difficulties we had to overcome. The support of the Communications Department of the EPP Party was very useful and we hope to improve the capacities of ESU seniors in this area in the near future.