09 May 2011
Volunteering for change on Europe Day
Professor Bruce Wilson, Director of the European Union Centre at RMIT University, has welcomed Europe Day 2011, which occurs today.
"Fifty-one years after Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, released his Declaration calling for a united Europe, Europe Day marks an opportunity to reflect on Europe’s progress towards a more constructive and peaceful framework of relationships among European nations," he said.
"It has not been an easy 50 years, marked by ongoing debate over the proper balance between the rights of the member states and the collective responsibilities of the Union, recurring economic challenges and, occasionally, serious conflicts.
"Yet looking back, remarkable progress has been made: open crossing of the borders of the members of Schengen group, the euro, and a growing body of European legislation on a broad range of social and workplace matters," Professor Wilson said.
Professor Wilson praised the commitment shown by many Europeans to facing challenges, not least the recent global financial crisis, which has had a much greater impact in Europe than in Australia. He noted the optimism reflected in Europe 2020, the EU’s broad strategy for economic and social development over the next decade.
Europe 2020 covered not just economic priorities, but also environmental challenges and social inclusion, he said.
"Given these priorities," Professor Wilson said, "it is not surprising that the EU has nominated 2011 as the Year of Volunteering, and has committed itself to spending 10 million euros on a broad range of initiatives designed to recognise and promote volunteering.
"This initiative recognises the economic importance of volunteering. The time and energy of volunteers, often in necessary activities related to learning or disaster management, can be valued in the billions of euros," Professor Wilson said.
"But its broader importance is social and cultural: it is so often ordinary people, giving their own time to help others in their communities, sharing their experiences and building a sense of belonging. This is the great importance of volunteering."
For interviews: Professor Bruce Wilson, (03) 9925 8214.
For general media enquiries: RMIT University Communications, David Glanz, (03) 9925 2807 or 0438 547 723.