7th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Youth 
23-24 September 2005 - Budapest, Hungary 

(To be checked against delivered speech)

Welcome address by Kinga Göncz, Minister for Youth, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Hungary

23 September 2005

Honourable Secretary General,
Commissioner,
Ministers,
State Secretaries,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Dear Colleagues,

It is an honour for me to open the reception here, in the European Youth Centre in Budapest, to celebrate the Centre’s 10th anniversary.

The Centre is a meeting place, a training, a conference and a knowledge centre on human rights and intercultural education. It provides an ideal environment for international co-operation, mutual learning, promotion of youth participation and youth workers’ training for young people from all over Europe, who play an active role in youth work at local, national and European level. The Centre supports the dissemination of values which we all share and find extremely important.

The idea of founding the European Youth Centre in Budapest originates with the change of the political regime in 1990.

By the end of the 1980-ies, several independent youth NGO’s were active in Hungary, who, after regrouping under an umbrella-association were able to contact their counterparts in Western Europe and also the youth sector of the Council of Europe. The representatives of the Council of Europe were equally of the opinion that youth work must be extended towards the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, consequently the efforts aiming at establishing a second European Youth Centre soon met with their approval. The foundation of the Centre entered the official phase when the decision-making bodies of the Council of Europe gave their blessing to the process.

Hungary has always been committed to host the second European Youth Centre. By supporting the idea of the Centre, the first democratically elected government wanted to emphasise that it intended young people to play an active role in building democracy and civil society. It was a generally accepted belief that the active participation of young people in social processes will contribute to democratic change in the whole region. This is why Hungary applied to host a European Youth Centre in Budapest, and the request was granted in 1993. The process of the foundation of the Centre was fraught with difficulties due to the climate of political changes, so it was a great achievement when the Centre was inaugurated in 1995.

In the past ten years the Centre has evolved into a unique institution. It is the depository of a European mission and it embodies European culture with the help of its training schemes, outstanding publications and its professional activities.

It is a source of pride for me that several programs were organised jointly by the Hungarian authorities responsible for youth, and by the European Youth Centre in Budapest. Just to name a few: in 1999 a series of trainings took place to commemorate the 50 years of the Council of Europe, and in 2004, the COMPASS manual was published in the Hungarian language, in the framework of the all-European Human Rights Youth Program being held at the Centre, which has become an indispensable tool in human rights education since then.

A unique partnership has developed within the Centre since the year 2000, when the Mobilitás Information Centre was housed in the institution. The Service enables young Hungarians to get acquainted with the work done within a European youth institution, and also helps the foreign participants of the Centre’s programs contact Hungarian NGOs. The service equally functions as a source of information on the youth programs of the EU, thus providing an example of a fruitful and reasonable cooperation.

In the years that passed since the foundation of the Centre, thousands of young people from all over Europe and beyond have benefited from the programmes of the European Youth Centre in Budapest. Although the spirit of Europe and social cohesion permeating the building has a strong foundation, we felt that the European Youth Centre Budapest itself needed some renovation.

Colleagues at the Centre experienced difficult months, while the whole building was renovated over the summer period. On behalf of the Hungarian Government we allocated two million EURO to ensure that the Centre will receive you in all its splendour, and to make sure that the Centre will provide the opportunity in the coming years for thousands of young people to gain in-depth knowledge on human rights education, youth participation, grassroots of active citizenship and youth policy development.

It is great honour for me that we can celebrate the 10th anniversary of the European Youth Centre in Budapest together with my foreign counterparts, young people and with dedicated representatives of the European youth sector.

May the European Youth Centre in Budapest serve the interests of young Europeans and of everyone who holds dear the issues of democracy and human rights.

Have a pleasant evening tonight!