For the EU Commission, the European Year of Volunteering provides an opportunity to honour the Horber Schienen-Tage because this specialist symposium has been organised by volunteers for nearly three decades.
When talking about volunteering, the focus is not usually on rail transport and transport policies. In my address today, I would like to underline the following: Volunteering is a commitment to society in whatever form it may take. As the European Commission stressed in its Communication on EU Policies and Volunteering: "Recognising and Promoting Cross-border Voluntary Activities in the EU" of 20 September 2011, volunteering is a creator of human and social capital. It is a pathway to integration and employment and a key factor for improving social cohesion. Especially with respect to mobility which is facilitated by rail transport, cross-border volunteering activity can be promoted in collaboration with the Member States and by EU funding programmes and thus contributes to inter-cultural learning for European citizens and strengthens the European identity.
In recent years, with increasing European integration and the resulting changes to transport in general, European issues have gained even more importance. This has become apparent, amongst other things, by the fact that the European Commission has directly contributed to the symposium agenda. For many years, speakers and participants have come from Germany and all of its neighbouring states, not only the German-speaking countries.
Cross-border transport and pan-European solutions have always been dealt with at the Horber Schienen-Tage event. This year again, the Horber Schienen-Tage will keep up the good old tradition of tackling issues of sustainability. Energy supply, energy saving and the environmental compatibility of rail transport are relevant topics not only for rail specialists, but have an impact on the future of Europe. The European Commission has commended the organisers and speakers for taking on these issues and helping to initiate the necessary broad discussion on this topic.
Besides the lectures and discussions, specialist excursions play an important role in the agenda of this symposium. They make transport issues come alive and demonstrate exemplary solutions, exploring both the surrounding areas and areas beyond the borders of Germany. Besides the hands-on experience that these technically-focussed excursions convey, they also show the vibrant side of Europe.
I wish the organisers and participants every success with this Horber Schienen-Tage event and all the best for the future.
Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner, Vice-President