The European Union's '2011 European Year of Volunteering' program series was opened this past week-end in Budapest by the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding
Volunteers are the real heroes of Europe for they do not expect reward and recognition for what they do and are convinced that their acts matter more than words, Commissioner Vivien Reding, who is also the European Commission's vice president, said iin her opening speech in Budapest where she - along with other Commissioners - had arrived for the official inauguration of the Hungarian Presidency of the EU for the first half of 2011.
Work is under way in the whole of Europe to simplify administrative procedures in areas, such as labour legislation or the acceptance of diplomas to help the work of volunteers, she added.
She said the goal in 2011 was to further raise citizens' awareness in Europe to the importance of voluntary work, which she said was also an important way of building communities.
Currently, she said, 100 million people are engaged in some form of voluntary work in the European Union, contributing some five percent of gross domestic product of the bloc, and the goal is to double that figure by the end of 2011.
Addressing the event Hungary's Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics said the country would strongly promote volunteering.
In his remarks, Hungarian President Pál Schmitt said the key to voluntary work was to work in a community to help others. He said there were some 1,500 organisations registered in Hungary that work with volunteers.
In the European Year of Volunteering, the European Commission has launched a tour, which goes through all the 27 EU countries. It starts in Hungary between January 8 and 14.
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