“Europe: Where are your values?” was the title of this year’s edition of the annual European “rendez-vous” that took place in Strasbourg, France, from 21 to 26 November 2016. The event was co-organised by ESN member INET/CNPFT (National Centre for Local Public Services) and the European Centre for Public Administration (PEAP), in partnership with European institutions, civil society, training centres and universities, cultural institutions, as well as media. They aimed to compare and discuss perspectives related to governance, and to bring a prospective view and insight on the future of European public policies.

For the first time since they started in 2006, the rendez-vous were organised under the aegis of the Council of Europe (CoE). The CoE gathers 47 states and was the first political organisation to be created after the World War II.

Inclusive citizenship in Europe

The event’s extensive programme featured six days of conferences and discussions around various themes such as democracy, citizenship, migrations, defence, energy policy and employment.

ESN CEO John Halloran spoke about the values of citizenship in Europe by relating them to the traditional social welfare approach which has tended to separate, protect and ‘rescue’ disadvantaged persons going back to the social reforms of the 19th and 20th century.  John argued that society has changed and that our emerging ‘social’ language is rather more about participation, control and inclusion and that therefore we need a transformational view of citizenship which empowers all including those on the margins such as people with mental health difficulties, disability, children at risk etc.

The answer to the question; Where are Europe’s values’? is therefore to be shaped in our local communities in our cities and rural areas which can be a place where everybody counts. The implication for social services is to responds to this person rather than service centred narrative.

ESN Member involvement

The European rendez-vous was organised by INET, one of the 5 branches of CNFPT, an ESN member from France tasked with training public servants working at the local level. Senior civil servants are trained by INET. CNFPT (National Centre for Local Public Services)  and the organisation has four other thematic “institutes”, spread across the French territory (Angers, Dunkirk, Montpellier and Nancy). ESN works mostly with the Angers-based institute, which is specialised in social services, social inclusion and children policies.

Conclusion

When it comes to Europe’s social values, ESN CEO John Halloran pointed out that these should be inclusion, citizenship, support and empowerment of even the most vulnerable in our societies. Dialogue needs to continue to move away from outdated ideas of protection and ‘salvation’ of these vulnerable groups towards active inclusion, participation, and person-centred support. This is made possible through the involvement of local public services which have the capacity to be more person-centred and which are better placed to support community-based initiatives.