On the 9th of November 2021, the European Parliament Committee on Petitions organized the annual workshop on the rights of persons with Disabilities. This year’s workshop focused on the implementation of the 2015 Concluding Observations of the CRPD Committee to the EU and the 2021-2030 Disability Rights Strategy. Speakers and participants, including EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis and five members of the Disability Intergroup, welcomed the efforts made by the EU in following up on the 2015 concluding observations, but also highlighted several concerns and unresolved issues in the new Disability Strategy. A study on this matter was also presented at the event.
Dolors Montserrat chair of the Committee on Petitions opened the discussion by reminding the purpose of the workshop and the responsibilities and obligations of the EU and its Member States in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In her opening pre-recorded speech with sign language interpretation and subtitles, Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, reminded participants that “persons with disabilities have the right to fully participate in all areas of life, just like anyone else”. Helena Dalli also assured that the new Disability Strategy responds to the Committee recommendations and covers all areas of the UN Convention.
Jose Smits, Inclusion Europe’s Secretary-General and author of the study on the implementation of the 2015 Concluding Observations of the CRPD Committee by the EU, presented the gaps, issues, and achievements in implementing the CRPD, and highlighted that “the contested issue of use by Member State of EU funds to renovate institutions is not really addressed. There is evidence that EU funding have been used to renovate and reinforce institutions, while it became clear that the Commission is not willing or able to revoke misused funding”.
During his intervention, Yannis Vardakastani, President of the European Disability Forum, noted that the efforts made by the EU in following up the 2015 Concluding Observations “have not been enough. There are many more recommendations from the CRPD committee which require urgent action by the EU”. Some of these recommendations include:
- the review of the EU law to harmonize it with the Convention
- the establishment of CRPD focal points in all institutions, and an inter-institutional mechanism to coordinate the implementation of the Convention
- the structured involvement of the disability movement in decisions affecting persons with disabilities
- the adoption of an anti-discrimination legislation to address disability-based discrimination in all areas of life.
“We need the political ambition and the necessary resources to respond to the concluding observations and fully implement the CRPD”, he concluded.
Jonas Ruskus, Vice-Chair of the CRPD Committee, stressed the CRPD Committee’s concerns regarding the non-implementation of the CRPD article 19 on independent living. He pointed out this “flagrant issue” and the lack of progress on the transition to community-based living, especially for persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, including children across Member States.
Other speakers and participants, including MEPs members of the Disability Intergroup, such as Stelios Kympouropoulos, Jarosław Duda, Tilly Metz, and Alex Agius Saliba, pointed at other key issues, including:
- the lack of timelines and details when it comes to implementing certain actions of the new Disability Strategy
- the situation of mental health of children with disabilities across Member States, and the exclusion of children from society due to their placement in segregated settings
- the lack of transparency and control regarding the misuse of EU funding to maintain or invest in segregated living environments
- the ratification of the CRPD Optional Protocol, the anti-discrimination directive, and the Istanbul Convention, all dependent on the political will of Member States in the Council.
The workshop concluded with an intervention from MEP Kympouropoulos stressing the importance of community-based living and the provision of personal assistance.