STRUCTURAL FUNDS: THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT SENDS A STRONG MESSAGE ON DISABILITY TO THE MEMBERS STATES
9 May 2012 /// Preventing and eliminating barriers to accessibility for persons with disabilities should be a condition to fulfil in order to receive European money. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should be at the core of the European Funds allocated to Members States and the European regions. It is crucial the funds are effective and ensure implementation of the UN treaty. During a workshop organised on 8 May by EDF and MEP Danuta Hübner (EPP, Poland), the European Parliament sent a strong messages to the Members States: the removal of crucial conditionalities is not acceptable: the future Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 will have to include persons with disabilities.
The European Parliament is now in the driver’s seat concerning the future cohesion policy: with the Treaty of Lisbon, it has become a formal co-legislator in the cohesion field. This provides the Members of Parliament with a unique opportunity to ensure that the Structural Funds meet the needs of all European citizens, including 80 million European with disabilities.
The new Regulations on the EU Structural Funds have been released by the Commission last year in times of financial cuts. The MEPs together with key actors have brought to the EDF’s workshop a strong political message supporting people with disabilities. They have focuses on four main issues:
>THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT JOINS FORCES WITH PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
MEP Danuta Hübner (EPP, Poland) Chair of the committee on Regional Development
"The European Union’s institutional and financial support to persons with disabilities, as we all know, is guaranteed in the Treaties. The European Parliament has always worked in support of persons with disabilities. The Structural Funds legislative package proposed by the Commission brings about important improvements for persons with disabilities, also in light of the UN Convention. In these times of crisis, it is essential for all policy makers in Europe to understand that promoting the rights of persons with disabilities does not only mean respect of human rights and protection of the right of every European citizen. It also means offering every citizen the same opportunity to contribute to European development."
Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President
“The EU has concluded the UN Convention. 22 of all Members States have ratified it and all of them have signed it. All of them have therefore the obligation to respect it. The Structural Funds are one of the most important proposals that will be negotiated in 2012. It must comply with the obligations deriving from the UN Convention.”
MEP Adám Kósa (EPP, Hungary) President of the Disability Intergroup
“As a Member with disability of the European Parliament, I fully support the disability movement. The Disability Intergroup totally agrees with the European Disability Forum: Members States have to include persons with disabilities to have access to EU funds. Europe should not turn back from the results of the current cohesion policy legislation but further improve the Structural Funds for persons with disabilities.”
MEP Elisabeth Schroedter (Greens, EFA) member of the Committee on Regional Development
“If the EU wants to reach the Europe 2020 targets, the cohesion policy has to be inclusive. It is important to act now. We have to make the conditionalities respect ethical provisions and promote inclusion of persons with disabilities. The partnership principle with the civil society has to be protected and even reinforced in the general and specific regulations. Organisations of persons with disabilities must be recognised as equal footing and must be involved in all the phases of the process.
MEP Rosa Estaràs Ferragut (EPP, Spain) Member of the Disability Intergroup and of the Committee on Regional Development
“The inclusion of ex ante conditionalities in the general regulation is necesary to comply with the UN Convention obligations. Their removal would have a very negative impact. The objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy won’t be reached without 80 million European with disabilities.”
MEP Constanze Angela Krehl (S&D, German) Committee on Regional Development and co-rapporteur for the Common Provision Regulation
Ms Krehl sent a message in reference to the workshop:
"Every Member States should be ready and willing to eliminate inequalities and combat discrimination. The deletion of the relevant paragraphs by the Council is therefore not acceptable and will surely be raised within the future negotiations with the Parliament”
>STRONG SUPPORT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION AND KEY ACTORS
Nicholas Martyn, Deputy Director-General DG REGIO DG Development and Coordination and communication of cohesion policy
“The European Commission has offered a framework with the notion of non-discrimination in the centre of the cohesion funds After the preliminary amendments of the draft regulation (i.e. ex ante conditionalities) by the Council, we rely on the European Parliament as a co legislator and on the other stakeholders to keep the original provisions in the final package”
Human rights key players at international level such as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Disability Consortium of the European Foundation Center and the Center for Disability Law and Policy, Galway University came and supported the disability movement. They reminded the European Parliament about the EU obligations towards the UN. Referring to the UN convention as a whole, persons with disabilities have all the rights to live independently and contribute to the society. They also emphasised that Structural Funds must promote the community based services for persons with disabilities calling upon the European Parliament to make sure the resources are well targeted and that they benefit 80 million European citizens with disabilities.
A Legal Study of the Current Use and Future Potential of the EU Structural Funds to Contribute to the Achievement of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (Prof. Gerard Quinn, Director of the Center for Disability Law and Policy)