Fedak, Andor, Komoroswki, Woycicka and Jahier

To the historic Presidential Palace (one of the few buildings to have survived the war) for the start of the Various Interests Group’s special conference on a ‘Europe of active citizenship: volunteering’. This year is the European Year of Volunteering and the Various Interests Group and its President, Luca Jahier, has taken a very keen interest in the social and economic phenomenon that is volunteering. In a clear sign of the importance that the Polish Presidency attached to the event, it was not only held in a very special room at the Presidential Palace (see my next post) but was opened and addressed by the President himself, Bronislaw Komorowski. Other speakers in the opening session included Laszlo Andor, the European Commissioner with responsibility for employment, social affairs and inclusion, Jolanta Fedak, the Polish Minister for Labour and Social Policy, and Undersecretary of State Irene Woycicka. In a nice symbolic gesture, our ushers throughout the day were volunteer girl guides and boy scouts. The theme of all who spoke was that the momentum of the European Year should be maintained. As Andor put it, we should continue to dismantle the psychological, physical, cultural and legal barriers to volunteering. But the best ‘soundbite’ came from Jolonta Fedak: ‘Volunteers don’t get paid not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.’