EDF’s Annual General Assembly 2015: progressing rights in Europe

1 June 2015

On 30-31 May 2015, the EDF Annual General Assembly in Warsaw gathered representatives from the disability movement from all over Europe together with representatives of European institutions, including the European Commission, the European Ombudsman, and the Agency for Fundamental Rights, and Polish authorities. The AGA hosted an active debate on the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities in Europe and its member states. EDF and its members also adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a Directorate for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the EU, and a resolution calling on the EU to ratify the Marrakesh treaty immediately.

Opening the meeting, EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, underlined that 2017 will be a critical year as it will be 20 years since the establishment of EDF and 10 years since the UN Convention opened for signatures. He proposed to the General Assembly to organise and lead EU and national campaigns in 2017 to make sure that the UN Convention is being implemented without any limitations. His proposal was voted unanimously from the General Assembly.

“We should mobilize all forces to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD). The implementation of the UN Convention is not and should not be business as usual for the EU and the EU member states that have signed the Convention. We have to change our way of thinking and acting to make sure that the UN CRPD is implemented”, said EDF President.

Maria Krol , the Chairperson of the Board of the Polish Disability Forum, emphasised that “it is very important that governments develop an implementation strategy for the UN CRPD together with the representative organisations of persons with disabilities, specifying the tasks, deadlines and responsibilities of all parties involved”.

Representing the Polish Government Plenipotentiary for Persons with Disabilities, Alina Wojtowicz, said that the real implementation of the UN CRPD should take place at all levels of government and civil society: “The way we think is reflected in the way we act. If we create a truly open, tolerant and inclusive society, it will benefit us all."

Malgorzata Marcinska from the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy stated the importance of raising awareness of issues that are essential for citizens with disabilities. “ An accessible environment and accessible services improve the quality of life for everyone’’.

SHARING EXPERIENCES ON THE EU REVIEW PROCESS

The EU is currently under review by the UN expert Committee on the CRPD. On the basis of examining the EU’s report to the UN Committee, and taking into account alternative reports, including that of EDF, the UN Committee has asked the EU to reply to a “list of issues”. In this context, during the meeting, EDF European members shared their experiences in the EU review process. From their side, EDF national members presented their experiences from the perspective of their country’s review process, and members of the EU Monitoring Framework on the UN CRPD shared their views on the list of issues. EDF will also respond to the list of issues to provide evidence and insights to the UN expert Committee from organisations of persons with disabilities in Europe. Many of our members will also give direct input in response to the list of issues on key topics of importance to Europeans with disabilities including freedom from torture, legal capacity, international cooperation and the right to live independently.

RESOLUTION ON THE FOCAL POINT FOR THE UN CONVENTION IN THE EU INSTITUTIONS

After last year’s European elections, the new European Commission took a step backwards by moving the focal point on disability from DG Justice to DG Employment; this separates the units in the Commission responsible for various grounds of discrimination and gives the signal that the EU sees the rights of persons with disabilities purely as an employment issue. This goes contrary to the UN Convention. During the General Assembly, EDF and its members unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a Directorate under the Commission’s Secretariat-General to lead the EU’s implementation of the CRPD. This focal point should be accompanied by focal points in every relevant DG of the European Commission, and in every EU institution.

Find the full text of the resolution here

RESOLUTION FOR THE IMMEDIATE RATIFICATION OF THE MARRAKESH TREATY

EDF General Assembly adopted also unanimously a resolution calling on the European Commission, the EU council, and all governments throughout the European Union to ratify without any further delay the Marrakesh treaty to improve access to information for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

Find the full text of the resolution here

Learn more about the EU review process

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