Welcome by Dr Herman A. A. Gresnigt,
European Chairman ICEVI

Opening session Sunday 9 July 2000, 15.00 -17.00

Distinguished members of the Honorary Committee,
Respected participants from all over Europe
Dear colleagues and friends.

It is a great honour and pleasure to me to welcome all of you at the 5th European Conference of ICEVI.

A special word of welcome for the representative of the Ministry of Education. We regard your presence here as an expression of the importance that you attach to the further development and improvement of the education and rehabilitation of our fellow men who are blind or partially sighted. We highly appreciate your being here this afternoon.

Also a special word of welcome to the members of the honorary committee. You represent the most important authorities of your country: the government, the parliament, the churches and regional and local representative bodies. We consider your membership of the honorary committee as a sign of your involvement with good and contemporary education for those who belong to our target group. Both the parents and we as professionals, rely on your commitment.

Last but not least, a hearty welcome to all participants in the conference who, together, represent 40 different countries within Europe, as well as a few countries outside Europe.

We, the European Committee of ICEVI, are extremely happy that you have come to Cracow in large numbers to share your knowledge and experiences with each other. We have received about 200 reactions to our call for papers and more than 450 reactions to our invitation to participate: ICEVI is alive in Europe!
Many of you have become acquainted with ICEVI through former conferences or workshops; for many others this conference is their first acquaintance with ICEVI.

Thanks to the dedication of some members of the European Committee we can now also welcome large delegations from countries which have been less involved with ICEVI until now: especially France, Germany and Spain. The fact there are so many participants from Central and Eastern Europe has been made possible by a number of generous donations from some funds in the Netherlands. This enabled us to offer a so-called 'supported place' to about 180 participants. We are very glad to see that a trend which was started at the former European Conference in 1995 in Budapest could be continued. After all, a European conference may rightly be called a European conference if all countries in Europe are represented equally.

Your massive interest in this conference has indeed caused some logistic problems: however, Polish hospitality has solved them: the Polish participants will follow the opening and plenary sessions on a TV screen in the adjoining room. Because of this, we were able to accept all registrations.

The mission of ICEVI as laid down in the policy document for the current quinquennium 1997-2002, is as follows: "Qualitative and quantitative enhancement of education and rehabilitation in order to reach equal opportunities for people with visual impairment."
We want to realise this goal by the exchange and dissemination of scientific and practical information, knowledge and experience. To this end ICEVI organises conferences and workshops both at a global and regional level and promotes networks and twinning contacts.
This is also the intention of this conference which has brought us together here: the education of children and youngsters with a visual impairment: all aspects of education ranging from early intervention to job mediation and job coaching.

Each of us intends to do this work, this assignment, to the best of his/her abilities: this means: up-to-date, innovative, creative. While doing so, the contacts with colleagues in the days to come may be a source of inspiration:

We hope that the programme in all its variety will give you ample opportunity for this.

Organising such a conference would not be possible without the dedication of many people, especially in the host country. On behalf of the European Committee and, I suppose also on behalf of all of you present, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Polish Host Committee for the great deal of work it has done in the past few years. Apart from that, under the inspiring leadership of the Committee, many people have made their contribution to the preparation of parts of this conference. Thank you very much!
A special word of thanks to the Ministry of Education for financially supporting the activities of the Polish Host Committee.

To conclude:
I hope that all of you, especially those who take part in an ICEVI Conference for the first time, will soon feel at home here in our midst. Please try to be inspired by the lovely city of Cracow, one of the Cultural Cities of Europe this year with the motto: "Thought, Spirituality and Creativity."

I wish all of you a fascinating, inspiring and pleasant conference in this beautiful city.
I thank you for your attention.

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