On 17 February, the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs in the European Parliament organised a meeting where the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (CRPD) was discussed. The meeting was organised in regard to the own-initiative report that the Committee is working on, lead by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Helga Stevens. During the meeting, different stakeholders were invited to speak.
Diane Kingston, member of the CRPD Committee spoke about the role of the Committee and emphasises the importance of the involvement of the European Parliament but that it is only possible to be involved in the implementation or the monitoring process and not both. Kingston also spoke about the importance at EU level to follow the Convention and to work more on more urgent issues such as unemployment for persons with disabilities, social protection for persons out of work, freedom of movement.
The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, opened by stating that it is important that the Concluding Observations from the CRPD Committee to the EU does not stop and only becomes a wish list but that it actually will be a proper list of actions to be implemented. O’Reilly also gave examples of her work in helping EU citizens in their possible barriers when dealing with EU institutions and actions. With the Concluding Observations it has become apparent that the website of the European Ombudsman is unfortunately not fully accessible but this is something they are currently working on.
Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the EU Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA), complemented the European Parliament and their work in organising hearings and meeting on the CRPD and also highlighted the importance of involving DPOs in the work to ensure proper implementation of the Convention. Jan Jarab, Regional representative in Europe for the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), spoke about the possible role and responsibilities of the EU institutions not only in regard to legislation and financial instruments but also in leadership in general for policy work in the EU.
Gunta Anca, Vice President of the European Disability Forum (EDF), also mentioned the importance of always involving persons with disabilities in the process of implementation of the Convention, such as EDF and other DPOs. Anca also mentioned the European Accessibility Act and highlighted the importance of a proper review of the European Disability Strategy.
The presentations were followed by a great discussion of several MEPs who showed interest in the topic and pushed for the importance of ensuring a proper implementation of the CRPD at EU level. Helga Stevens finished the discussion by complementing the Secretariat of the Committee for their efforts in ensuring that the meeting was accessible, for example by providing for International Sign interpreting. Stevens also thanked all MEPs for their interest and active involvement and comments during the meeting.