It has already been three weeks since we all gathered in Bucharest. As ever we had a very full agenda. A conference, a General Assembly, Board and Executive Committee meetings, a project development café, Standing Committees and Interest Groups all took place.
Thankfully everything seemed to flow very well. I know that our dedicated planning team and our great national partners in Dizabnet and the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations had some sleepless nights, but they need not have worried!
From my vantage point and through my informal contact with delegates I saw tremendous commitment, both in the conference and in the EASPD meetings. At the conference, with 300 delegates attending, the quality of the conference sessions & workshops and their everyday relevance to our work in supporting people with disabilities compelled participation. Sessions on reserved markets, personal budgets, on public procurement, private investment and the E.U. on funding were all thought provoking, often led to robust dialogue and most importantly had relevance across national boundaries.
At the conference we were particularly pleased to welcome the participation of the Secretary of State, Labour & Social Justice, Elena Solomonesc, Rodolfo Cattani, member of the European Disability Forum Executive Committee and from the European Commission, the Director for Social Affairs, Katerina Ivankovic Knezevic and a team of officials.
The conference gave us very clear conclusions:
- The importance of gaining full participation and dialogue between national governments and civil society
- Adequate funding for all basic services
- Planning and delivery of services that place the person with disabilities at the centre
- Funding that emphasizes quality as well as price, that ensures the rapid closure of institutions, encourages small community focussed services & social enterprises and allows creativity
A similar enthusiasm and energy were plainly evident in our General Assembly and the other meetings. At the General Assembly, with 100 people present, members fully embraced the opportunity to help shape our future governance arrangements. This process will be key in ensuring that EASPD becomes more member led, whilst retaining the friendly, supportive and positive outlook of the organisation, which has been a key ingredient in our success. Proposals that will have been informed by these discussions will come to our next conference in Helsinki.
I am also pleased to report that after a highly competitive election I am pleased to thank all the candidates who stood for the vacant position on the Board and to congratulate and welcome Katerina Tsaligopoulou from Margarita of Greece.