State of the Union on Disability: what are the next steps?
The first State of the Union on Disability was organised in Brussels last December 6th. This historic meeting hosted by President José Manuel Barroso gathered Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, Herman Van Rompuy President of the European Council, and Yannis Vardakastanis President of the European Disability Forum: the representative organisation of disabled people in Europe. Together, they discussed how to improve the lives of 80 million Europeans with disabilities and to guaranty their rights and freedom of movement.
This was the first meeting of a series of State of the Union on Disabilities that will now happen every two years. The main goal of this Presidents’ meeting is to make sure the European institutions are working together towards the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities concluded in 2010.
This is the first human rights treaty concluded by the EU. It promotes the full participation of persons with disabilities in the society, including women and children with disabilities and their families. In this challenging time of crisis, persons with disabilities in Europe are among the worst hit by the unprecedented austerity measures taken by governments.
As the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso stressed: “The crisis shouldn’t prevent us from advancing in the implementation of the UN Convention. There won’t be any postponed legislation because of this crisis.”
Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament reaffirmed the Parliament’s commitment to implement the UN Convention. “I am calling for the conclusion of the Optional Protocol by the European Council” he added.
As President Van Rompuy observed on decision making, “When we discuss macroeconomic policy, we tend to forget concrete situation of persons with disabilities.” Therefore EDF requested to have a presentation at the European Council about the effects of the economic crisis. President Van Rompuy also stated, “A social way out of the crisis is possible”.
Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the EDF stressed: “Today, in a time of profound crisis, the commitment to respect and promote the UN Convention is not enough. We ask for the rapid and practical implementation of this Convention through which real change of the lives of persons with disabilities need to be delivered. The State of the Union on Disability is a unique opportunity for the EU leaders to put in place all the necessary policies and measures to make the European Institutions work for the real protection and promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities. This is the only practical way to combat poverty, discrimination and exclusion and to promote the inclusion of 80 million Europeans with disabilities working together for more freedom, participation, democracy and human rights.”
EDF executive committee members have reminded the EU Presidents the importance of the EU action in many areas such as the Structural Funds; the access to technology, to built environment and to transport, the people in need of high levels of support, gender equality and social services for persons with disabilities.
EDF brought a series of proposals and welcomes the commitments and positive response that came out of the meeting:
- the EDF participation to one meeting of the college of Commissioners in 2012
- the involvement of EDF in one of the meetings of the European Commission General Directors meeting in to ensure the horizontal implementation of the UN Convention
the 2012 European Parliament of the persons with disabilities in 2012, widely supported by President Buzek and by MEP Adam Kosa, President of the Disability Intergroup that also participated in the meeting.
Vice President of the European Commission Viviane Reding reiterated her commitment for a strong European Accessibility Act which is part of the Disability Strategy.
EDF welcomed the appointment given by President Barroso to gather again the leaders of the disability movement and the EU Presidents in two years to check the results of the progress. On behalf of the 3 Presidents of the other institutions, Jose Manuel Barroso stated that “The European Disability Forum is the primary interlocutor in Europe for disability issues.”
>The European Disability Forum was represented by:
- Ms Donata Pagetti Vivanti, EDF Vice-President and Mr Giulio Vivanti
- Ms Erszebet Földesi, EDF Vice-President
- Mr Rodolfo Cattani, EDF Secretary General
Ms Ana Peláez, EDF executive committee member
Mr Stig Langvad, EDF executive committee member
Mr Alain Faure, EDF executive committee member
Mr Pierre Gyselinck, EDF national member
Mr Javier Güemes, EDF acting Director
Mr Aurélien Daydé, EDF communication officer