Central Europe Partnership Meeting

Ljubljana 21-22 May 2004

Mr. President of Slovenian Red Cross, dear friends, at the opening of the Central Europe Partnership Meeting I would like to greet you on behalf of the President of the International Federation. Juan Manuel Suarez Del Toro who telephoned me a few days ago to ask to represent him in this meeting in my new capacity of Vice-President for Europe of the International Federation.

It gives me particular pleasure to be with you here today, in my own region, to be able to meet so many leaders of National Societies of Central Europe as well as representatives of Partner Societies. I know very well many of you and I have many friends among your and here really I feel home.

This historical moment of important political changes in Europe presents great opportunities for all of us as well as important challenges. There are opportunities of coming together and reuniting after decades of being separated, and there are opportunities of economic and social progress. But there are also formidable challenges to meet.

The political changes have come with a very high price for many. Vulnerable groups such as the elderly, families with many children, different minorities – but also the young people, have been marginalized by social disruption and diminished health and social services. Trafficking in human beings, increasing drug use among young people, soaring rates of HIV/AIDS and TB are some of the dark aspects of our region. Political tension and violence has not totally disappeared.

We are aware that the Red Cross Societies in Central Europe are experienced and strongly committed Societies, willing to meet the needs of vulnerable people in their communities. However, we also understand that you as leaders of the Red Cross are facing a double challenge: to assist those in need and to build your own organisations in a new environment. And I’d like remember to you that vulnerable people ar not “the others” and that each of us in a few hours can become a vulnerable people.

Our organization’s long experience corroborates your wisdom to seek a common response to the humanitarian challenges in the region. Allow me to encourage you strongly to give the participation of volunteers and particularly young people in this humanitarian task as prominent a place as possible. The humanitarian goals our International Movement has set to fight against human suffering are linked to, and conditioned by, our being able to fulfil the ideals and aspirations of the volunteers to achieve them.

We need commitment, we need not only active members, but also activists. Red Cross can change in better the lifes not only of vulnerable people, but also of our Red Cross People. We don’t need that the imagine of Red Cross / Red Crescent is only that of on old lady of good Society, very respectable but out, out of the new problems of the people.

I would like to wish you all much success in achieving your goals and I assure you that the entire Red Cross and Red Crescent share your concerns and are willing to pursue them with you. You can therefore count on the support of all our Federation, the Governing Board, the President and the Secretariat. I hope that the conclusions of this meeting are given appropriate shape in effective initiatives that help provide better lives to all people who do not enjoy such conditions due to the many causes of vulnerability and to the fact that to “ survive” is a very difficult issue for everibody.

Massimo Barra