Report card: French Presidency of the EU Council

Report card: French Presidency of the EU Council

France held the Presidency of the Council of the EU during the first semester of 2022. The Council of the EU reunites national heads of government and ministers to decide on EU policy – they play a crucial part in determining and implementing EU initiatives. Below, we will analyse the Presidency’s impact on disability rights.

Legislative initiatives

Several legislative files impacting persons with disabilities advanced during the Presidency. These include the Minimum Wage Directive, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The Minimum Wage Directive is historic legislation. The Directive will establish rules for a mandatory minimum wage throughout the EU (adapted by country). These rules, agreed under the French Presidency, will apply to all EU workers with an employment contract or employment relationship – including those with disabilities. Our requests included: that every worker is covered by the rules regardless of the employment model (including those in sheltered environments); the accessibility of the information related to wages; and reporting data on salaries disaggregated by disabilities. These have all been included. However, the Council played a major part in weakening the provision regarding workers in sheltered environments – opening possibilities for national legislators to exclude them.

The Digital Services Act has been the major failure of the French Presidency for persons with disabilities. The agreement is a milestone achievement in regulating big online platforms, protecting users online, and ensuring freedom of expression and opportunities for businesses. But it fails to include persons with disabilities. Instead of mandatory accessibility obligations for digital services in line with the European Accessibility Act, policymakers decided to include only voluntary codes of conduct.

The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the Digital Markets Act were relevant successes, and the ambition placed throughout the negotiations allowed for notable advances. The final result of the CSRD ensures that companies will need to report on the employment and inclusion of persons with disabilities. This information will have to be provided in accessible formats. Regarding the Digital Markets Act, large digital companies must fulfil accessibility requirements for persons with disabilities.

Action on Disability Rights

Some presidencies were slightly more active in specific action on disability rights. That said, the French Presidency organised the Ministerial Conference “Improving accessibility and access to rights and implementing the 2021-2030 EU Strategy”, which reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the EU Disability Strategy and initiatives such as the EU Disability Card. The Presidency also held a meeting dedicated to the employment of persons with disabilities as part of the EPSCO configuration (Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs ministers). EDF gave a presentation during this meeting– which is uncommon for Civil Society Organisations. This excellent initiative signals how national governments are increasingly listening to the voice of persons with disabilities.

Conference on the Future of Europe

Lastly, the results of the Conference on the Future of Europe, expected as the greatest milestone of the French Presidency, were disappointing for persons with disabilities.