Putting emphasis on the pressing need for cohesion and combating inequality, the current and future presidencies clearly outlined their ambition to see a strong social pillar within the EU2020. They were followed in this by a wide range of speakers.
As the first political landmark of the European Year 2010, the opening conference brought together major national and European personalities from the 27 EU Member States as well as Iceland and Norway. Amongst which the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr. Zapatero, the President of European Commission, Mr. Barroso, the Spanish Health and Social Minister, Ms Jiménez, the European Commissioner, Mr. Špidla, the representative of the President of the European Parliament Mr. Mendes de Viigo, the Vice-President of the Greens/European Free Alliance Group of MEPs, Ms Lambert, the Chairman of the Reflection Group on the Future of the European Union, Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, as well as high-level representatives from Member States, and civil society organisations. People experiencing poverty took an active part in the conference, and were given a front seat on the round table on testimonials. The conference was marked by the exceptional level of participants who supported throughout the day social inclusion policies.
The many impactful speeches stressed the need to place the fight against poverty and exclusion at the centre of the EU agenda and to make social cohesion a horizontal priority, with the involvement of all key players. Child poverty, active inclusion and minimum income were central to discussions, as well as the inclusion of Roma, migrants and ethnic minorities.
More than 300 participants from Spain and other EU Member States attended the conference, in particular from national and regional administrations, social partners, experts, NGOs, European institutions and international organizations, foundations, as well as the Social Protection Committee, EC Representations.
Around 80 journalists from all over the EU and from the written and audiovisual press were offered the chance to see for themselves and report on two seminal social inclusion projects in Alcorcón and the Multiregional Operational Programme against Discrimination, managed by Caritas España, the Spanish red Cross, the Roma Secretariat Foundation and the ONCE Foundation.
Many bilateral interviews took place with key speakers, in a dedicated effort to reach out to a wider audience and increase awareness both of the issue of poverty and of the instruments at work within social Europe to fight it.
The opening conference was preceded on 20th January by a press conference organised by the Spanish presidency, with the Spanish Minister for Health and Social Policy, Ms Trinidad Jiménez and the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Mr. Vladimir Špidla.