Report on the ECSWE Conference in Belgium

By Marinka Špodnak, December 2014

A late summer morning. It was going to be a sunny day. A fresh breeze was blowing, and the early birds were waiting for the other colleagues in front of the Willy Brandt Building, which is located in Brussels’ European quarter. Straight lines, surfaces of stone and glass. Everything was huge.

Many representatives to ECSWE were visiting the EU capital for the first time. The first day offered a variety of EU-related activities inside several buildings of the European Parliament. After an impressive multimedia exhibition on the history, the variety of EU members and the functioning of the European Institutions, we entered the main building, where we saw many halls, stairs and beautiful sculptures.

During our visit to the Plenary chamber, our Lithuanian guide Ringaile Razauskiene gave us a good overview on the work of the European Parliament, the ongoing business after the recent European elections and the upcoming hearings of the Commissioners designate. Later, Katharina Rieke, Assistant to Sabine Verheyen, EPP, Germany and Dániel Fehér, assistant to Tamás Meszerics, Greens/EFA, Hungary, briefly introduced the day- to-day routine in an MEP’s office and their perspective on the Commission hearings.

Our first official Council session was held in one of the hundreds of EU meeting halls. We also visited the new ECSWE office in Rue du Trône 194, led by our friendly and organized new colleague, Georg Jürgens, a former Parliamentary assistant to Gerald Häfner, Greens/EFA, Germany. Great!

In the afternoon we saw the old part of Brussels: it waited for us as an old good friend with all its restaurants, chocolate shops, Belgian waffles, delicious food, famous Cupid fountains, its Music Museum, and the beautiful St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral. We were told that on the other side of Brussels there are ghettos populated by different nationalities of the world and it is sometimes dangerous to cross their borders. Not too far from Brussels are the plains of Waterloo, which are still echoing nearly five hundred years of history from the big split in this European region after Charles V’s abdication, as well as the years of struggle known as the age of William of Orange. Today, northern Flanders and southern Wallonia are part of Belgium and they are trying to find ways to prevent the division of the country. The German part is in the shadow of this contemporary split. Isn’t it surprising that the idea of the EU- community took its roots just in this region!?

On Saturday and Sunday ECSWE was warmly welcomed by the Steiner School in Court-Saint-Étienne and our sweet, strong colleague Senta. This well settled school is in the Wallonian part of Belgium, some 30 kilometers south of Brussels. The Waldorf schools in this part haven’t got a federation yet and thus no representatives and financial and political rights in the educational domain, which are specific for the French part of Belgium. Flanders’ Waldorf community by contrast is organized in a federation; they participate in many formal and informal associations. For more interesting details contact Senta, Margareta and Hans, and visit the link

The ECSWE Project on School readiness was discussed. This project aims at collecting information about the standards in ECSWE countries/regions concerning the early childhood settings and elementary school education, with the emphasis on the school entrance regulations. A survey for ECSWE members has been prepared, so, the plan is to develop a database for the next meeting in January. Furthermore, the mandate of the Diploma project group up to the next Council meeting was defined. As usual, two national associations presented the current situation of the Waldorf movement in their countries: Ukraine and the UK. The varieties of the Waldorf movement worldwide created a fresh and supportive mood once again.

ECSWE conferences are usually adorned by reports of important permanent guests in the Council: various institutions who work in similar directions and aspirations. This time, Walter Hiller presented the latest developments in the Software AG Stiftung.

Apart from this, Clara Aerts, the representative of our partner IASWECE, pointed out the importance of informing people about and preparing them for the forthcoming International Conference "Transitions in Childhood" (Dornach, March 30 to April 3, 2015; see link). This conference will give insights and inspirations for more co-work of Waldorf kindergarten and school teachers who surround child’s naturally non-segmented development.

Furthermore, Tonnie Brounts, the representative of the European Network for Academic Steiner Teacher Education (ENASTE) informed us about their work: supporting “collaboration of all European universities and educational institutes offering academic accreditation for their Waldorf teacher education programs “ ( ENASTE supports others who aim toward accreditations, as well as research of Waldorf Education. The next ENASTE-Congress: “Transformations. Education in a Rapidly – Changing World” will take place in Vienna from May 14th -16th 2015.

And “Zucker kommt zuletzt” in this EU-Mood Conference, former MEP Gerald Häfner, Greens/EFA, visited us to address ECSWE. He brilliantly inspired everyone to undertake focused work and activities on EU level in order to proactively assure better public understanding of Waldorf Education, especially the right to freedom in the educational sphere, lobby work and co-work with various organizations which are interested in the children’s well-being.

Many thanks to the Board, which had meetings before, during and after the conference, and to our Belgian colleagues, who hosted the Conference in Brussels. Well done!

We left this European region where Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse meet so closely, with so many challenging and inspiring experiences and tasks. What will be different in Oslo in January?

The conference was held 19th – 21st September 2014, at Brussels and Court-Saint-Étienne.


No comments

Add comment

* - required field