I would like to wish a good morning to all the participants, delegates and guests and thank the President for the welcome he has extended to the congress. Thank you also to the local authorities and to all members of the Hungarian Union.
I would also like to offer a very warm thanks to Luca Visentini, who, in just one month, will be elected General Secretary of the Ces, for his presence here today. He has all our support and best wishes.
The Ferpa will be at his side in the numerous future battles he will lead as head of the European Confederation, but it could be of even greater assistance to Luca Visentini and the Ces if the Ferpa were to be recognized, as soon as possible, as a European union federation on par with the other category federations, as we propose in our Congressional document, in points 2.2 e 2.3.
Social and economic factors such as aging populations and welfare are opportunities for development and employment, which unite active and retired employees, the young and the old, in close partnership with union initiatives for the attainment of the European social model put forward in the Ces and Ferpa documents.
I have full confidence that with Luca Visentini’s sensitivity, knowledge and experience, the Ferpa will be able to achieve new and deeper ties with the Ces, which will valorize the entire European Trade Union movement.
This is what I intend to ask for in my address to the Ces Congress.
Many things have changed in the last 15 years, and unions representing pensioners, in all countries, are increasingly involved in issues regarding the rights and needs of older and retired people.
In some countries there have been positive results from dialogue with various governments. In others, negotiations have never been possible. We have had a negative experience at the European level with the ICE but we have chosen, along with the Ces, to strive towards gaining a representative role which would allow us to obtain significant results in Europe and consequently in member states, including strong endorsement of initiatives on the lack of personal autonomy.
It is my firm conviction that Ferpa is not merely an older peoples association but is a Trade Union with a contractual role as one of its most important activities.
I am sure that Visentini will not underestimate the importance of the issues we are raising and for this reason we intend to participate fully in the discussions to be programmed with the European Commission.
I listened with great attention to the address given by Bruno Costantini, who is leaving the Ferpa because of statutory rules and the end of his mandate.
Bruno led the Ferpa for eight difficult years. Years when all of Europe was smitten by the crisis.
Together with the leadership, the executive and the President, he had to tackle the terrible effects of the social and economic crisis on both employment and welfare in a context where the policies of austerity slashed health and social insurance spending.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to Bruno for all his hard work and commit ourselves to continuing that work as well as concluding any unfinished projects. The latter constitute the three major chapters of the strategic resolution project of this 7° Congress.
These eight years have also seen the loss of millions and millions of jobs and the creation of vast swathes of unemployment among the young and older people, without work or income. At the same time, in this context, the rise in retirement age in the absence of a salary, pension or a welfare based living income, has led inevitably to new areas of poverty.
Conditions of increasing poverty (more than 100 million), of the lack of autonomy of many older people, the numerous problems experienced by families in difficulty and particularly by women, of youth whose future is increasingly uncertain, of inequality, of the dangers of increasing populism and resurgent nationalism are all alarm bells ringing to warn us that it is time Europe woke up to the necessity of elaborating a new social dimension.
Today, even more than yesterday, this dimension is increasingly urgent because it is impossible to resolve the questions associated with migration by building walls.
Europe must make a clear choice between hostility and solidarity regarding those fleeing from hunger, war and violence.
It is not through a return to any form of nationalism that Europe will be able to deal with the emergency situation arising from the increasing waves of migrants and refugees.
It is only through the establishment of common codes of conduct ensuring common responsibility throughout all European countries that the culture of fear, hatred and exclusion can be blocked from spreading over the entire continent.
We cannot allow the 70 years of peace and hard work towards the construction of the United States of Europe to fail because of the incapacity to develop a general plan based on solidarity to deal with this tragedy and at the same time safeguard the rights and needs of European citizens.
Solidarity and rights are often posed as being in contrast with each other, but the many tragic deaths of men, women and children in recent months have imposed an urgent deadline for all the Governments of Europe. There is no more time to be lost.
It is an extreme situation concerning all countries, none excluded. Walls and barbed wire can put the problem at a distance of a few kilometres but they resolve nothing.
There are no barriers or militia capable of blocking people fleeing from war, hunger or persecution.
On the 14 September the European Commission will meet to decide its plan of action, how to modify existing arrangements for the distribution of migrant numbers. What must not be forgotten, however, is the necessity to combat the violence, the terrorism, the daily atrocities destructive of culture and liberty, that are the principal causes of this mass flight from the countries where such indescribable horrors occur.
Peace in the world is difficult to achieve without fighting terrorism and violence.
Europe must give an immediate response to this enormous challenge.
The gap which needs urgently to be filled is a new updated European Constitution able to define the rights of its citizens : rules and values, rights and duties, solidarity and equality, freedom and democracy.
If these eight words were to form the pillars of European life, then older people too, in all countries, would be assured the right to live and age with dignity.
This is why we have decided to put forward a proposal, a charter of rights for older people, which can become an instrument for the safeguarding and protection of all retired men and women.
We know that there is a need for Europe, but it must be a social Europe, a Europe of employment as the Ces document indicates and as we express in our congressional manifesto.
Thus it must become a better Europe for pensioners and older people.
The unions, the Ces and the Ferpa, must also find the courage to embark on a project of change and renovation in both content and method.
This is not a question of bureaucracy, or of simple rules. Actions are what count, the capacity to take risks. This is a challenge for everyone starting from the Secretary General.
Change does not come about by means of improvisation, nor top down through meetings of the Executive or the Leadership.
It does not occur through miracles either but is the result of careful choices about how and what to do. We must give ourselves specific objectives to reach before the mid-term assembly.
We will do this together, through discussions and mutual respect. We will identify the best actions to achieve our goals as well as to obtain a greater valorizations of the role of Ferpa.
In this way, my program will be in line with the strategic resolution of the Congress.
In line with health policies, quality public services, pensions, income protection, social welfare, the ICE initiative of European citizens, the relationship with the Commission and the European Parliament.
In work oriented particularly towards inter-generational solidarity, with the Ces and also that with other categories which is just beginning.
Against the ruthless, excessive privatization of the public sector in favour of private interests.
Blocking the erosion of fundamental principles of social security.
Chapter 3 of our social welfare document explains our priorities very well.
In order to adequately tackle every point of our strategic resolution we need to re-enforce the Ferpa in two essential directions : one in the direction of the Ces and Europe, the other within every single country strengthening and valorizing every organization and association of pensioners and older people.
As you know, my candidacy was put forward in a unitary manner by the three major Italian Trade Unions, and the Ferpa Executive agreed unanimously with this choice.
I am very proud to have been chosen in this way and have profound respect for the expression of trust which the leadership has honoured me with. If elected, I will do all in my capacity to maintain this trust.
I am used to leading a large organization, the SPI, and I am also used to working together with the Fnp and the Uilp. My work in Ferpa will also be guided by these principles of co-operation and unity with all of you, with every organization and in every country.
The Secretary General of the Ferpa, in full respect of its rules and statute, has a huge political responsibility : the leadership of Ferpa, the proposal of strategies and actions which are necessary for the men and women we represent.
We need at least three things :
1. Full recognition of the role of Ferpa by the Ces ;
2. To win over to Ferpa, all those countries, union and social organizations who, as yet, do not see themselves in Ferpa and thus to increase the recognition of our union.
It will be difficult and complicated but not impossible. If we start by establishing a dialogue around the political themes our strategies are based on, we can create consensus for new memberships.
3. To build alliances, discuss an interact with employees in every country to defend citizen rights and contribute to the struggles being waged over social justice that the Ces with its new Secretary General will take ahead and that are at the centre of the manifesto of our Congress.
You know as well as I do that these are complicated objectives. I do not presume to have an easy answer for tasks which have proven arduous up till now.
However, I intend to try and do my best because I have a firm belief in the European role of the Union.
Now, when the crisis has weakened unions in all countries, when the major economic and social decisions are passed down from Europe, imposing unwelcome sacrifices, when we see the suffering of large numbers of people, particularly in Greece where the thousands of pensioners reduced to a state of extreme poverty has highlighted a situation common to many European countries, now is the time to act. Now is the time to build a social front, to be present, be heard and fight all together.
I know that these are fine words and what count are facts, deeds, not words. Consequently, after the Ces Congress I will organize a meeting with the Women’s Committee with whom I have always worked very well, to respect their choices. I commit my total support, along with the new leadership and the new Executive, to the congressional strategies and together we will move to nominate the new President in full respect of the current statuary practices.
I am in agreement with the suggestion put forward by the Dutch Union to set up a working group to prepare modifications to the existing statute to make it more up to date and useful in the context of a new role for both the Ces and Ferpa.
I would like to confirm my statements at the meeting regarding my candidacy. I will come to visit you all in your countries, at a mutually convenient date, to gain greater knowledge of every single situation and listen to your advice and suggestions.
The alliance between all the older people of the various European countries will be successful if we are able to organize ourselves as men and women, pensioners and older people. Divisions do not help and are always a source of weakness.
Our common strength will help us to safeguard both the older and the younger generations, our children and grand-children who have need of employment and development. We have no wish to steal their future. We want rights and dignity for everyone.
Although we are no longer youthful, our ideas and vitality stem from the history of the union movement which is alive within us all.
We are part of a generation who believed in the destiny of Europe as a community.
We have spent years debating the future and role of Europe and now that the crisis risks shattering old hopes and dreams we must be ready to respond to the challenge with the tools of the European Trade Union : the Ces and the Ferpa.
I am well aware that this will be an arduous task but I am not daunted, especially if you all want to help me perform my role as Secretary General in the best possible manner.
I will do everything to not delude you.
Budapest, 9 september 2015