Seniors focussing on EU’s political priorities: ESU-Madrid-Congress 23-25 September 2021
On 23-25 September, the ESU was finally able to celebrate its 25th anniversary after a one-year delay. For this purpose we met in Madrid, the venue was well chosen because it was also in Madrid that the organization was founded in 1995. It was a warm gathering with our ‘Christian democratic family’ after being separated for so long by the COVID-19 pandemic. The celebration was coupled with an Extraordinary Congress and was organized in cooperation with ESU-vice president Carmen Quintanilla, and supported by the Partido Popular. On 23 September an interesting dinner meeting was organised by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Please find the program here.
In this report, we highlight some aspects of the Congress programme: the reflection and discussions on the future of the EU, “A quarter of a century of active senior citizenship” and the round table discussion
ESU: active citizenship in a period of turbulent European unification
Professor Steven Van Hecke gave an overview on ‘How Europe was growing’ during the recent 25 years and highlighted some conflicts and challenges. Since Europe is not only built by governments and heads of state, but also by citizens, the role of citizenship building and citizen participation is very important. Articulating the needs and expectations of seniors and building bridges between citizens and policy makers was one of the main objectives of ESU at its establishment. Over a period of 25 years, thanks to inspiring presidents and the direct cooperation of vice-presidents and delegates from member associations, ESU has developed a wide range of activities. The direct cooperation with the EPP was an opportunity to repeatedly call for more age-friendly and people-oriented policy-making.
Building the future TOGETHER
The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for a coordinated health policy brought the question to the table: “Is Europe doing enough for the health of its citizens?” European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, who was invited at our celebration to address our audience, underlined in a written message, brought by ESU-vice president Antonios Demetriades, the need for more cooperation in health policy.
ESU president An Hermans stated: “How can we honor our founders better than by looking forward, and responding to the challenges we face?” She identified the EU’s policy priorities (2019-2024), and highlighted ESU’s perspective on these priorities. Find the powerpoint and texthere. She commented on the six EU priorities, highlighted by EU president Ursula von der Leyen in 2019, and called for special attention for some age-related issues. Also during the previous years the ESU called for a general European strategy on Demographic Change, an integrated human-rights approach ensuring older persons’ rights in all circumstances; a more respectful attitude towards older persons, offering them the empowerment to participate in all parts of society, also when it comes to innovative sectors like digital transformation. President Hermans ended her speech with a word of gratitude and a call to continue working together, because: ‘in Europe can only recover together’.
“Building resilient societies for all generations”
A roundtable discussion moderated by ESU vice-president Heinz Becker followed. We welcomed speakers from different backgrounds: health, digitalization & climate change:
Marina Troncoso Rodríguez: President of CAUMAS (confederation of associations of the University Programs for the Elderly);
Juan Manuel Martínez Gómez: Geriatrician, president of CEOMA (Spanish confederation of seniors organizations);
Patrick Penninckx: Council of Europe, Head of Information Society Department;
Carlo Giacomo Angrisano: Former chairman EDS. Secretary general of “Nuevas Generaciones del Partido Popular”.
There were many questions from the audience and we thank our guest speakers for addressing these.
ESU President An Hermans underlined that it is so important for our delegations to learn from and meet experts from several scientific and societal fields. Only then, leading persons in civil society can play their role as critical bridges between politicians, opinion makers and citizens and make the best choices to defend people-centred political decisions.