Am 23.rd May 2022, the European Commission published its Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) as part of the European Semester Process, within the Spring Package. The EU Semester is an annual cycle where the Commission analyses poor performance on certain policy issues (primarily economic and social) in the Member States. The Commission then delivers its CSRs to the Member States which explain how they can better align their policies with the objectives and rule agreed at EU level (in the Commission’s Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy). The recommendations focus on what the Member State can realistically achieve over the next 12-18 months. Member States are expected to take immediate action on these recommendations.
This round of recommendations focused mainly on matters related to the energy crisis, green and digital transitions, the war in Ukraine, and post Covid-19 recovery. The Commission mostly relied on Member States’ National Recovery and Resilience Plans to discern the main problems on national level. Disability was still a prevalent aspect across Member States – the disability community is either mentioned directly or together with other vulnerable groups. Often disability is mentioned in relation to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is crucial that the Commission continues to recommend that the Member States take more action on the rights of persons with disabilities.
With regards to what this year’s CSRs said about disability, “the gradual tendency towards increasing focus on disability issues has continued through the Country Analysis, where every Member State now has specific analysis and measures raised for disability but stopped in the CSRs. In total, only 6 CSRs made a specific reference to persons with disabilities, compared to the 20 cases in 2020.”1 The disability issues covered, both through the Country Analysis and the CSRs, were mainly about 1. Employment of persons with disabilities; 2. Poverty and social inclusion of persons with disabilities; 3. Social services, de-institutionalisation, and community-care; 4. Social protection for persons with disabilities, and 5. Education, training and labour-related skills.
The 2022 CSRs have been slightly different to the previous year’s considering the significant global events of Covid-19 and now, the war in Ukraine, as well as the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs). This year, the Commission has acknowledged some of the ways in which persons with disabilities have been particularly affected by these crises. However, the focus is mainly on implementing the NRRPs, energy costs, the green transition, as well as in adapting to support Ukrainian refugees – nevertheless, not mentioning the inclusion of refugees with disabilities.2 Although there is better analysis and references to persons with disabilities, this is mainly in the Country Reports, rather than in the CSRs. However, this is excused by the Commission as, this year, it relies on programmes and projects based on the NRRPs to cover most social and disability-related aspects and expects Member States to implement them properly for the solution of these problems next year.3 Nevertheless, the European Disability Forum has deemed this approach as insufficient, given the “highly important problems related to the situation of persons with disabilities suffered in many Member States.”