Summer Academy 2022: “Generations master the future of a changing Europe together”

“Generations master the future of a changing Europe together”

After three years, nearly 60 people from all over Europe met at the Politische Akademie in Vienna. The programme included meetings on the administration and management of the Association, and throughout the day a list of expert speakers shared their knowledge and experiences. It was a joyful ‘reunion’ to learn, discuss, be involved, and stand up for a sustainable society in solidarity with the younger generations.

A joyful meeting

The 2022 Summer Academy required a long preparation, due to uncertainties about COVID-19 preventive measures, due to changes in the hotel and accommodation sector in Vienna, due to the search for keynote speakers, etc. It was ESU Vice-President Heinz Becker, former Member of the European Parliament and former Secretary General of the Österreichische SeniorenBund (ÖSB) who took the lead in the preparation, supported by professionals and volunteers from the Political Academy and the ÖSB. The ESU handled drafts and changes in close cooperation with the WMCES until finally the whole programme was aligned and ready to start and then… Heinz Becker himself had to stay home due to a COVID-19 infection. Once again we put our skills of flexibility to use and we were ready for the long-awaited ‘meet again’ and the organisers could warmly welcome the participants. 

Mrs Bettina Rausch, President of the Political Academy of the Austrian People’s Party, proudly welcomed the European seniors; Mr Tomi Huhtanen, Executive Director of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies (WMCES) underlined the need for European cooperation; Mrs Ingrid Korosec, President of the Austrian Seniors’ Association (ÖSB) called on seniors to believe in their ability to help shape the society of the future and An Hermans, President of the European Seniors’ Union (ESU) called for active participation and to “take inspiration and good practices home”.

Standing together for freedom and democracy 

Prof. Dr. Stefan Karner, from the University of Graz and an appreciated speaker and debater introduced the subject that concerns everyone: “Russia’s war against Ukraine – situation, backgrounds, developments” 

See also this article. 

A video-presence from Mr. Volodymyr Dzobak, Chairman of the Council of the Ukrainian Association of Retired Persons (UARP), in Ukraine and since the war very active in the support of internally displaced persons, on:  Testimonies of displaced persons fleeing the war in Ukraine”

His direct message confronted us with the real living environment: the fear and danger, the uncertainties, and the needs of our fellow-citizens in Ukraine. Moreover Mr. Dzobak had organised an online survey about the current state of the Ukrainian people and what their biggest sticking points are at the moment, it was about housing, pensions and humanitarian aid, the results of the survey can be found on Facebook.

Both speakers and An Hermans, on behalf of all participants,  expressed their sincere appreciation for the opportunity to receive information directly, to exchange experiences and to create solidarity. ESU stands by Ukraine and hopes that this war will end. We will never forget what Mr Dzobak said: ‘This is not a war between Ukraine and Russia, it is a war between barbarism and civilisation’. We hope that civilization will win.     

“Active citizens and empowered consumers”  

An Hermans, ESU President, outlined the session’s horizon on “Active citizens and empowered consumers”, starting with stimulating information on the protection and empowerment of consumers, especially in various forms of digital communication. In particular for this part of the Summer Academy, we could count on support from the Consumers Empowerment Project (CEP). The CEP aims to bring together consumers and businesses to optimize the understanding between both parties. 

We are proud to present you all our interesting speakers and their subject of interest:   

  • In a first video message, Sebastian Sposito, Public Affairs Manager Europe, Government Affairs & Public Policy, Google presented: “Online safety for seniors”. Explaining the importance of online safety measures and the control of it, for all age groups, but in particular for seniors. 
  • Federico Cavallo, Manager Public Affairs & Media Relation, Altroconsumo, Milano, engaged the participants in an interactive presentation Consumer organizations and digital empowerment: Altroconsumo’s experience in Italy”. He underlined the importance of empowerment of consumers , by dialogue between producers and consumers and the protection of their rights. 

Both speakers obtained a great interest of the audience, time was too short to answer all the questions and calls for advice. 

  • After these two general introductions explaining the importance of good practice and safe use of online communication, the question arises: Do we have the necessary standards to be protected and fully participate in the digital age? This question was developed into an intervention via video message entitled:  “Age and digitalisation – a human rights issue?“ by Dr. Claudia Mahler. Dr Mahler is a United Nations Independent expert on Human Rights for older persons, and working for several years in the Institute for Human Rights, Berlin. She called for a human rights approach in all ageing policies and illustrated that the existing human rights framework for seniors can be optimised. Not only do governments and policy-makers need the knowledge and skills to act in this digital age, but seniors also want to be included in the digital society.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic it was obvious that ‘all and everyone’ was supposed to use the internet. In Austria there is a longtime tradition of digital learning , not only for children and young people in schools, but also for seniors. Eva Holzhacker, project manager at A1 and co-responsible for the digitisation of Austria 60+,  was proud to present the program Making the generation 60+ internet-fit” .
  • Eline Chivot, Senior Adviser on Digital Policy, European People’s Party (EPP) Brussels, brought The EU and the protection of citizens in today’s digital society” This was a well-documented online overview of how the EU has already implemented various normative frameworks to guide digital transformation. As she was also one of the coordinators of the EPP document on digital transformations, she also highlighted the objectives of the EPP in this respect. Her ‘case study’ on e-health in particular received applause, as it directly benefited several participants, including people with experience in the sector, both patients and doctors.

After a long and interesting program about seniors as consumers in this changing society, An Hermans, presented „The Digital Era? Also my Era! Media and Information Literacy; a key to ensure seniors’ rights to participate in the digital era”. She wrote this information brochure at the invitation of the Council of Europe, and the document is available in English, German and French. The document can be found here

“Standing in Unity, Respecting Diversity” 

Tomi Huhtanen, Executive Director, Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, Brussels 

Presented a new study Standing in Unity, Respecting Diversity. 

This new document examines public opinion on four key policy areas that are fundamental to our future: the European economy, our common security, joint action on climate change and shared EU values. The study is based on four comprehensive surveys carried out in ten EU countries between January 2020 and March 2022. They measure the perspectives of citizens both just before and after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Four major cultural divides can be identified that run across the EU geographically. However, in order to manage cultural diversity in the EU, it is not enough to look at geographical differences. Many of Europe’s cultural differences cannot be mapped in space, but stem from differences in values within EU societies.

To conclude, An Hermans said: “With a reflection on European security, a long day of study and discussion comes to an end where we began: with the war in Ukraine. It is clear that ensuring peace and stability in Europe is the number one priority for citizens today, while support for ensuring the EU’s ability to defend itself has grown. The results of this study are truly a gold mine for reflection. We will certainly come back to the data presented”.

Presidium Meeting and Executive Committee

The meeting in Vienna was introduced by the meeting of the Presidium on 30 June and was concluded by the discussion of the activities in the member associations during the Executive Committee on 2 July. Particular attention was paid to the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, and all were very impressed by the testimony of Tatiana Zelko, who told of the repression and authoritarian environment in Belarus. 

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Events in 2022

Letter of ESU President An Hermans on the United Nations International Day of Older Persons

Online

On the 1 October 2022 we celebrate worldwide the United Nations International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP).

The European house must be built in solidarity

Prague

On 14th of September the ESU participated in an event organized at the occasion of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council.

The digital Era? Also my era! Media and Information Literacy: a key to ensure seniors’ rights to participate in the digital era

Strasbourg

An Hermans was invited by the Council of Europe to compile an informative brochure on the subject of digital literacy within the senior generation.

‘What does the Green Deal mean for our way of life?’ - ESU & CDA Side Event

Rotterdam

This side-event concerning ‘What does the Green Deal mean for our way of life?’ during EPP Congress in Rotterdam

EPP Congress Rotterdam: 31 May - 1 June

Rotterdam

ESU intervention at the Congress and Election of Manfred Weber as EPP President and EPP leadership

ESU Northern and Baltic Countries Regional Conference: Life with Covid-19

Tallinn

ESU Northern and Baltic Countries Regional Conference took place from 19-21 May; the central theme was: 'Life with Covid-19; new tasks & challenges for seniors.

Solidarity with Ukraine

Online

In early April, Volodymyr Dzobak contacted ESU President An Hermans. The interest grew to get to know Mr. Dzobak and his organization better.

29 April: European Day of Solidarity between generations

Online

ESU takes part every year in this awareness-raising campaign in order to draw attention to the concept of intergenerational solidarity and cooperation.

17.03.2022 ESU Video meeting on “War, tensions and threats at European borders"

Online

On 17 March we had our video conference on ‘War, tensions and threats at the European borders - How can the EU react? / What can citizens expect?”