UNANIMOUS VOTE AT ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE: THE EU MUST ACT NOW
22 September 2011 /// On 21 September, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted unanimously an important opinion on the European Commission disability strategy for the next 10 years. Released in 2010, this Strategy is a step in the right direction for persons with disabilities. The European Disability Forum involved in drafting of this opinion considers the adoption a great success. The disability movement welcomes the issues highlighted by the EESC and calls on the European Commission to react accordingly.
During its September plenary session, the EESC unanimously gave the green light to the opinion on the "European Disability Strategy 2010-2020". This text is intended to combat discrimination and social exclusion in Europe and defend the fundamental rights of 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe (16% of the EU citizens). Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, was the rapporteur for this EESC's opinion. Concretely, the EESC calls on the EU to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and to adopt a strong and legally binding European Accessibility Act. Furthermore, the EESC warns against any cuts in social expenditure due to austerity measures in the time of crisis.
>The implementation of the UN Convention: a key element for the success of the Strategy
The Disability Strategy presented by the Commission is a step in the right direction for persons with disabilities. On the whole, the Commission proposes a new approach to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities legally binding on the EU since its conclusion in December 2010. If fully implemented, the Strategy could be of benefit to 80 million Europeans with disabilities. The EESC calls for the development of effective instruments to implement the UN Convention including the creation of a Disability Committee in the EU. Donata Vivanti, Vice President of the European Disability Forum said: “The opinion on the Disability Strategy underlines the new obligations created since the conclusion of the UN Convention: the European Commission and the Members States have to deliver now!”
>Financial crisis: the hardest hit
The EESC is determined to extend the legal protection of the rights of persons with disabilities beyond the field of employment. Issues related to disability must always be taken into account when developing and implementing social legislation and policies. The EESC denounces the negative impact of the financial crisis on the lives of persons with disabilities and their ability to access their rights. The EESC urges support for persons with disabilities in the time of crisis and warns against any cuts in social expenditure due to austerity measures. The opinion also details how financial tools such as the Structural Funds and the Multinannual Financial Framework must comply with the UN Convention.
>The adoption of a strong Accessibility Act and the Mobility Card are the necessary steps for Freedom of movement
The EESC believes that a barrier-free Europe can only be achieved with the adoption of a European Accessibility Act, i.e. strong legislation to ensure persons with disabilities have full and unimpeded access to goods, services and built environment. Appropriate and effective enforcement and monitoring mechanisms should be identified both at the European and national level.
The adoption of a European Mobility Card and the accessibility of public sector websites by 2015 are another two elements necessary to create a barrier-free Europe. The EESC believes that these would be the concrete tools to promote the freedom of movement for persons with disabilities by enabling them to live as any other citizen in Europe.
-Download the opinion of the EESC here
-Download our full media release here
-Download the press release from the EESC here
-The text of the opinion has been translated in all EU languages on that link.