The Portuguese Presidency’s council conclusions on the European Disability Rights Strategy are disappointing. The Council should have gone further into detail on the provisions that concern the Member States and the Council as an institution. Instead, the Council Conclusions (Conclusions) remain superficial and do not contain many specific commitments on the implementation of the Strategy.
Some of the concrete recommendations from the European Disability Forum (EDF) that have been ignored include that the Council:
- nominates its disability coordinator, as foreseen in the Strategy, and make it publicly known. In this way it will be clear who is responsible from the Council side for the implementation of the Strategy.
- be part of the Disability Platform ensuring their true engagement in its implementation and their accountability to the other institutions.
- call for the establishment of a CRPD unit in the European Commission to ensure coordination of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the EU level; this CRPD unit is still missing from the Strategy. Without human and financial resources within the Commission, or the establishment of a strong and influential CRPD focal point, it is hard to see how the implementation of the strategy will be achieved.
- call for the establishment of an interinstitutional coordination mechanism between the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council.
- call upon the Commission to initiate its work with the Council to update the EU declaration of competences with regards to matters governed by the CRPD as recommended by the CRPD Committee in 2015 and included in the Strategy.
- commit to follow-up on actions for Member States which are part of the Strategy, in particular the urgent need to adopt horizontal anti-discrimination legislation which will protect persons with disabilities, including women with disabilities, against discrimination in all areas of life. The Council itself has held up this legislation for 13 years.
- prioritise the right to vote and to political participation in the next EU elections, and commit to adopting changes in EU electoral law to ensure this.
- make reference to the Strategies’ flagship initiatives, highlighting next steps from the Council to support their full implementation.
- Require an external Disability Action Plan to guide the work of the EU in combating all forms of discrimination in its global work and support the implementation of the UNCRPD.
On a positive note, there is a reference to consulting Disabled Persons’ Organisations and the Council expressed its commitment to the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President, said “We are disappointed that the Council does not take its role seriously, especially because it is the least transparent of the EU institutions. It is unacceptable that organisations of persons with disabilities were excluded from the decision-making procedure. ”