a pencil with two flags. the first one says "old", the second one "new"In Belgium, this time of year is known as the ‘rentree’ – the return – people go back to work after the traditional long holiday and schools restart after the summer break. Usually you can see the difference from one day to the next – more cars, more people, more urgency. This year is a bit different due to the COVID 19 pandemic but there is still a sense of ‘re-start’ or ‘return’ in the air…. But to what?

The coming months are going to be critical. Negotiations on the final shape of the next generation of EU funding programmes will continue and we must ensure that they are supporting the work our members do and that they are accessible. Consultations have been launched on how there can be a common approach to addressing child poverty across the EU which is not only a political issue but perhaps more importantly a moral issue. We will see new proposals launched on migration and on the integration of Roma people and on how to ensure people have an adequate minimum income. This is all happening alongside the ongoing COVID crisis and the resulting challenges facing social service providers – especially our members who work on a non-profit basis. There is a lot to return to  – and Eurodiaconia and our members are ready to work in partnership to ensure the success of these initiatives.

However, sometimes for the EU, the rentree can seem business as usual – but we believe it cannot be. This week has seen the horrific fire that has destroyed the Moria refugee camp in Greece, leaving 12000 people in limbo once again. A camp that was 3 times over its capacity. A fire that, however, it was started, could have resulted in a huge loss of life. How will the EU respond? Will there finally be a willingness to rethink EU asylum rules to avoid these sorts of camps and enable people to integrate quickly into their new societies? Will there be a new sense of fairness to share the responsibility of new arrivals among Member States and not only a small handful of countries? Will there be a new understanding that whatever the reasons were for coming to Europe and whether or not people have a right to stay or not that each person should be treated with dignity and with a respect for their human rights?

Returning does not always have to be to the same things – it can be an opportunity to return and rethink – to set a new course, perhaps a better course. The fire at the Moria camp and the social and economic impact of the COVID pandemic show us we need to return and rethink how to ensure people are at the heart of everything we do. That is what we try to do at Eurodiaconia, that is what I am seeing our members do across all of Europe – that is what we need to see from our political leadership as they return to work.

Have a good weekend,