President of the European Parliament committed to work on improving the rights of Europeans with disabilities

President of the European Parliament committed to work on improving the rights of Europeans with disabilities

On the 16th of March 2022, the European Disability Forum (EDF) President Yannis Vardakastanis met with the President of the European Parliament (EP) Roberta Metsola. They discussed the horrific impact of the war in Ukraine and the necessary collaboration between the EU and disability organisations to ensure inclusive support targeting the 2.7 million Ukrainians with disabilities- both in Ukraine, and those people fleeing to the EU from Ukraine. The meeting also tackled the role and the future actions of the Parliament as a long-standing ally of the disability movement and the 100 million persons with disabilities in Europe.

“As we speak, people with disabilities are trapped in cities under bombardment. Isolated in their homes, often unable to enter bomb shelters which are inaccessible, or abandoned in residential institutions. On top of this situation, the exodus of Ukrainians includes children and adults with disabilities who urgently need European support and should be welcomed in every EU member state”, EDF President said.

President Metsola said that one of Parliament’s main concerns is to get the necessary support for the most vulnerable, including persons in need of medical attention and persons with disabilities. She also said that the upcoming Parliament’s plenary session will deal in detail with the war in Ukraine and the European Union’s response.

President Metsola also agreed that organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs), governments, and institutions should collaborate to ensure that people with disabilities fleeing Ukraine have access to necessary accommodation and support, such as sign language interpretation and accessible transport. She also offered the possibility for EDF and its members to provide relevant information in this regard at the European Parliament’s Portal “Stand with Ukraine”.

Political participation

Ahead of the 2024 elections, EDF raised its concerns regarding the political rights of persons with disabilities. In 14 EU Member states, certain persons with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, can still be denied the right to vote. Concerning the right to stand as candidate, there are only 8 Member States in which persons with disabilities, without any restriction, can stand for office in the EU election.

President Metsola recognised the many obstacles faced by persons with disabilities and the long way to ensure inclusive European elections and agreed to cooperate with EDF in raising this issue with national authorities.

Planning joint activities

On the occasion of EDF’s 25th anniversary, President Metsola agreed to convene a high-level meeting of leaders of the EU institutions, in order to stress the progress made on disability rights since the Amsterdam Treaty, and show the commitment of the three EU institutions (Parliament, Council, and Commission) to work together in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as in 2011.

Furthermore, postponed due to the pandemic, EDF President reminded EP President Metsola of the importance and democratic success of the 4th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities (EPPD). President Metsola, who was deeply involved in the previous EPPD, agreed for the European Parliament to co-organise the 5th meeting in this legislative term and before the next European election.

Finally, EDF representatives echoed the call from the Disability Intergroup to participate in the work of the EP High-Level Group on Gender Equality and Diversity to guarantee that the internal policies of the Parliament will live up to the CRPD obligations as public administration. Additionally, EDF also recalled the need to establish a CRPD focal point in the Parliament, in the form of a standing committee, that could mainstream the Convention in all the parliamentary work as co-legislator.

President Metsola committed to look into these topics and keep on working to make sure the Parliament becomes more accessible, including for the plenary debates.

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Photo credit: © European Union 2022 – Source : EP / Fred MARVAUX