Yesterday, 13th of January, the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli met with EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis to discuss the role of the European Parliament in ensuring that the rights of 100 million persons with disabilities are protected and promoted by the European Union. The meeting also tackled the most important priorities for the European disability movement, such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the forthcoming European Disability Rights Strategy.
President Sassoli and EDF President talked about the upcoming European Disability Rights Strategy where Mr. Sassoli showed his commitment to hold a meeting with EDF and members of relevant parliamentary committees, once it is released by the European Commission on the first quarter of the year. EDF delegation stated its confidence that the European Parliament will remain active in fulfilling the objectives of the Strategy.
“We need you. We need to increase the ability of the institutions to react. All the initiatives of the European Parliament should include a disability rights approach. We have to be the champions in this field to lead progress.” European Parliament President said.
President Sassoli stressed the relevance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) in the EU for the past ten years, and reiterated the commitment of the EU assembly to keep upholding the rights of persons with disabilities in its parliamentary work. For the 10th anniversary of the UN CRPD to be celebrated on 22nd of January, President Sassoli considers it fundamental and he will make a public statement hoping that his message will be followed by the presidents of the political groups.
In this same vein, EDF requested President Sassoli to strengthen the role of the Parliament in mainstreaming disability rights throughout all the different policy files. To achieve such goal, EDF, its members, and the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament have expressed in multiple occasions the need to establish a disability focal point, which could take the form of a committee, as in other national Parliaments, such as Greece, Ireland or Spain.
EDF President emphasised the dramatic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing on persons with disabilities, their families and their support networks. President Sassoli agreed that not everyone has been affected by the pandemic equally.
“Due to the COVID-19 crisis we witness far too many violations of human rights against persons with disabilities, up to the most fatal consequences. These must not be forgotten. The EU Parliament, as the truly representative institution of European citizens, must investigate them thoroughly, and prevent this will ever happen again”, EDF President said. On the proposal of setting up a parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate these cases, President Sassoli committed to look into the legal basis for it with his team.
The President of the European Parliament underlined the importance of the voice of persons with disabilities in the Conference on the Future of the European Union. He also urged to involve EDF even further in a dialogue with the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) to guarantee the right to vote of all persons with disabilities.
Finally, EDF President also requested the political support of Mr Sassoli for the European Parliament to host the 5thEuropean Parliament of Persons with Disabilities when the situation in the EU allows it.