On the 6th of December EUD participated at the 4th edition of a major event – the European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities (EPPD) organised by the European Disability Forum (EDF) and the European Parliament (EP). The event brought together hundreds of delegates of representative organisations of persons with disabilities from all over Europe, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and high-level representatives of other EU institutions.
The EPPD was a landmark event and a unique opportunity for European citizens with disabilities to have a dialogue with their elected representatives and speak up for their rights. EUD staff and EUD Board Members were present to discuss the rights of persons with disabilities to vote and participate in political and public life, to have an overview of the European Disability Strategy 2020-2030 and the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and the Sustainable Development Goas (SDGs) by the European Union (EU).
The EPPD was opened by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, and the President of European Disability Forum Yannis Vardakastanis. President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, stated that the commitment to improve the lives of persons with disabilities is founded in our values as Europeans, including our attachment to freedom, equality and inclusion of all individuals in society. These values have to be translated into concrete actions, to enable every person to live an independent life, and to make sure that our society empowers everyone. EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, stated that the EPPD is another milestone in the dialogue between EU elected representatives and citizens with disabilities. Throughout all EDF existence, the European Parliament has always been a strong and vocal defender of the human rights of persons with disabilities. Over the last two legislatures, the European Parliament promoted and protected the rights of persons with disabilities during legislation negotiations on the right to equal access to the internet, to transport or to independent living, as well as on the structural funds – in line with the provisions of the UN CRPD.
The first panel, co-chaired by Ádám Kósa, co-President of the EP Disability intergroup, Marek Plura, Vice President of the EP Disability Intergroup and Maureen Piggot, EDF Executive Committee, focused on political participation of persons with disabilities. It was discussed what has to be done for the European elections 2019 to be fully accessible. It was highlighted that it is crucial to ensure full participation in political and public life for persons with disabilities. MEPs and delegates of the European disability movement made interventions highlighting that legal and administrative barriers, inaccessible processes and information, and a lack of awareness about political rights can deny persons with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the political lives of their communities. After the discussion EDF Manifesto on the European Elections was adopted. It encourages to ensure that polling stations are accessible to all persons with disabilities and that voting procedures (including for remote voting) are accessible and easy to understand. Election campaign facilities and materials, political debates, political party programmes and websites must be accessible to, and inclusive of, persons with disabilities.
The second panel, co-chaired by Helga Stevens, Kostandinka Kuneva, co-Presidents of the EP Disability Intergroup, and Gunta Anca, EDF Executive Committee, focused on a European Disability Strategy 2020-2030 (EDS) and Inclusive EU budget. It was highlighted that a EDS 2020-2030 must satisfy all the provisions of the CRPD, with a budget allocated for its implementation and a well-resourced monitoring mechanism. It must foster smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. EDS 2020 – 2030, has to take into account other instruments such as the European Pillar of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It should include 2021 as the next European Year of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the conclusion of the CRPD by the EU. Moreover, the Strategy, should be the establishment of a structured dialogue with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations with an independent budget line. After the presentations, round of interventions by MEPs and delegates of the European disability movement took place. Markku Jokinen, the President of the EUD made an intervention as one of the speakers and highlighted that EDS should be based on the Concluding Observations to the EU by the UN Committee. For deaf Europeans, some of the recommendations are particularly important. The Committee recommended that the European Union has to take the necessary measures to enforce the implementation of its legislation on access to information and communication so as to facilitate access in sign languages. Mr Jokinen emphasised that the EU should monitor the compliance on a regular basis and report to citizens on how MSs comply with these obligations in Web accessibility directive and should adopt European Accessibility Act. Moreover, the Committee recommended that the European Union take the necessary measures to enable all persons with all types of disabilities to enjoy their right to vote and stand for election, including by providing accessible communication and facilities. Mr Jokinen highlighted that it is crucial to take the deaf perspective into account before and during the election period and make it fully accessible for the deaf voters through sign language or captions. After the discussion, the Resolution on the European Disability Strategy was adopted.
The third panel, co-chaired by Olga Sehnalova, co-President of the EP Disability Intergroup, Marian Harkin, Vice-President of the EP Disability Intergroup and Nadia Hadad EDF Executive Committee focused on Sustainable Development. Participants discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the importance of taking people with disabilities on board in their implementation. Five of the SDGs are directly mentioning disability: goal 4 on quality education, goal 8 on decent work and economic growth, goal 10 on reduced inequalities, goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities and goal 17 on partnerships for the goals. It is crucial that the EU implements the SDGs and keep up to the commitment to leave no one behind. No person with disability should be forgotten, including those in more vulnerable situations such as women, children and refugees with disabilities, according to the EDF Vice President, Ana Peláez Narváez.
Delegates also adopted an emergency resolution on the European Accessibility Act. The resolution is calling on the Council of the EU to live up to its obligations to implement the CRPD and to adopt an ambitious and forward-looking General Approach to the European Accessibility Act at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting on 7 December 2017.
You can find resolutions and manifestos adopted in the links bellow.
EDF Manifesto on the European Elections 2019
EDF Resolution on the European Disability Strategy 2020-2030
Emergency Resolution on the European Accessibility Act