On Monday, 23 May 2022, MEP Irena Joveva attended the Studio Europe: Volunteers, Heroes of European Solidarity event, where she and the participants discussed the challenges of volunteering and addressed the question of its future, including in the light of the epidemic and the war in Ukraine. Joveva highlighted the fact that volunteering organisations bear a heavy burden of responsibility in crisis situations, and at the same time provide the lion’s share of aid, which must be acknowledged without reservation.

The participants agreed that in Slovenia volunteering has a long and strong tradition. This form of philanthropic assistance is especially visible in times of severe crises when the work of volunteers and NGOs becomes particularly important for the well-being of people and communities in need. Still, the successful operation of volunteering organisations also hinges on the financial and material support of the competent authorities, which must enable them to work as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

As rapporteur on behalf of Renew Europe for the European Solidarity Corps, Ms Joveva presented a few details about this programme, for which a separate budget line has been foreseen for the first time and much more funding envisaged than in previous years. The European Solidarity Corps allows young Europeans to volunteer or participate in projects in an EU Member State or a partner country. She called for a greater promotion of the high-quality and diverse programme that shows that the European Parliament appreciates volunteering and wishes to ensure that it is as inclusive and accessible as possible for those in need.

“Financial support for volunteering organisations may have decreased during, say, the financial crisis, but despite the obstacles, the human side of volunteering has been reinforced. In times of need, Slovenians will step together to organise help in any way we can. And often those who have less help more. The promotion of volunteering has also received a big push from the social networks.”

Asked by the moderator how best to strengthen the cooperation of volunteering organisations with the EU institutions and other Member States, Joveva said that crises know no borders. Therefore, in her view, it would make sense to introduce more coherent and integrated cooperation between all of the above, and to give volunteering organisations more space, as they know the problems in the local environment and are in daily contact with the most vulnerable.

“Cooperation needs to be strengthened at all levels, both in the volunteering sector as well as at the level of national institutions. This will facilitate wider European support for adequate funding for these organisations, as well as for their promotion.”

Finally, Joveva expressed her wish that volunteering should not be taken for granted, which might be happening under the influence of the growing individualism in society.

“Volunteers need financial and material support, but they also need respect and encouragement, because volunteering is the backbone of our society. Education of young people is also key, and I would like to see volunteering promoted in a way that gives up the patronising attitude towards young people, which can drive them away.”

In addition to MEP Joveva, the event was attended by Gregor Gomboši, Commander of the Ljubljana-Vič Volunteer Fire Brigade; Tjaša Arko, Head of the Volunteering Programme at the Slovenian Philanthropy; Sandi Curk, Commander of the Notranjska Regional Civil Protection Headquarters; and Miha Zupančič, President of the Youth Council of Slovenia.

Volunteering is not just about doing unpaid work. It is about contributing to the building of society, about a sense of one’s fellow humans, which we must value highly. That is why, on the occasion of National Volunteer Week, the office of MEP Irena Joveva would like to express its heartfelt gratitude to each and every volunteer.

You can watch a video of the event HERE.

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