ALLIANCE Director Irene Oldfather gives an update on her work as Third Sector Representative on the European Economic and Social Committee.
Brexit – What Matters to You?
The ALLIANCE published its new Brexit – What Matters to You? report in February after a year of engagement activity with local communities and older people in Scotland. People who took part in our consultation told us that they had concerns about health and social care, finances, rights, culture and engagement.
ALLIANCE Director Irene Oldfather has been promoting the findings of the report at a European level. And the report has been well received on the European Economic and Social Committee, with the President Luca Jahier calling it ‘impressive.’
Irene commented on the importance of sharing the report’s findings:
“The ALLIANCE took this discussion to the heart of local communities where we heard about the worries people, and in particular older people, have about the impact of Brexit on their way of life, their medicines and their pension security. For younger people, issues around freedom of movement, education and learning prevailed.
“The divisive effect that Brexit has had was particularly evident in the most recent sessions where older people resented having been stereotyped as supporters of Brexit, noting a rise in ageism in Scotland.
“All of the feedback provided by our members has been passed onto the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, and has informed Scotland’s negotiations with the UK Government at a national level.”
Introducing… the EESC Diversity Europe Group
The EESC Diversity Group have put together a short film introducing the team and explaining some of the work that they do.
Education about the European Union
At the 542nd plenary session of the EESC in March, ALLIANCE Director Irene Oldfather proposed two amendments – both of which were passed by the committee. The first of these, Education about the European Union (this link will take you away from our website), aims to look at possible ways through which people can acquire solid knowledge about the European Union, its foundations, procedures and actions, as well as its positive achievements and the concrete benefits it offers.
Irene’s amendment emphasised the opinion’s ability to build ordinary people’s ownership over the European decision-making process, ensuring that their vision, needs and priorities are adequately reflected in the European agenda at all levels.
Commenting on her amendment, Irene said that:
“This is particularly relevant at the moment. Not enough has been done to celebrate the achievements of the European Union and what it offers to ordinary people on a daily basis. It could even be argued that a lack of awareness of what the EU offers played a role in the UK’s dissatisfaction with Europe – which led to the Brexit vote in 2016. It is crucial that people are not taken for granted.
“In the context of uncertainty around Brexit, it is clear that more needs to be done to celebrate the achievements of the European Union and what it offers to ordinary people on a daily basis.”
The White Dove Way
The White Dove Way (this link will take you away from our website) aims to chart a new direction for peace-building worldwide by creating a ‘European Path of Peace.’ ALLIANCE Director Irene Oldfather’s amendment successfully added Scotland, and in particular Iona, to this path of peace – with the EESC’s official position now calling for its branches ‘to extend both within and outside the EU.’
Irene noted that:
“The key to the success of this proposal will be engaging ordinary people and particularly young people, in the process, giving them a role in understanding the benefits of Europe, and engaging them as communicators in celebrating the achievements of the EU.
“The European Union was established to replace conflict with peace. And, with global politics becoming more and more divisive, it is truer than ever that the European Union is needed to bring us back together.”
Real Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Vote in European Parliament Elections
As we approach the European Parliament elections in May, the European Economic and Social Committee have unanimously passed an opinion which safeguards disabled people’s right to vote.
ALLIANCE Director Irene Oldfather said:
“I’m really pleased to have been able to support this motion. We have been supporting this movement at a European level, however it is applicable in Scotland too. The ALLIANCE’s vision is for a Scotland where disabled people, people living with long term conditions and carers have a strong voice and enjoy their right to live well – as equal and active citizens, free from discrimination, with support and services that put them at the centre.
“Nobody should be deprived of their right to vote because of their disability.”