On the 13th of December, EUD participated at the public hearing organised by the European Economic Social Committee’s Permanent Study Group on Disability Rights. Public hearing was focusing on “Reviewing the 2014-2020 European Investment and Structural Funds (ESIF) Regulations in favour of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations”. The aim of the event was to look into the use of European Investment and Structural Funds and to discuss how to promote inclusion of persons with disability.
Participants analysed what has been achieved so far, with a focus on the anti-discrimination and partnership principle. Irena Petraitienė, President of the Permanent Study Group on Disability Rights (EESC) opened the discussion. Ioannis Vardakastanis, Rapporteur for EESC opinion on “Structural Funds General Provisions” highlighted that EESC strongly believes that partnership is important. All partners and stakeholders, including organisations of persons with disabilities, must be involved in the preparation, execution and ex-post evaluation of projects undertaken in the framework of EU cohesion policy. Partnership Principle (PP) is a key for the management of the ESIF.
Andor Urmos, Unit for Inclusive Growth, Urban and Territorial Development, DG REGIO, European Commission (EC) gave a presentation on EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020. Cohesion Policy is the EU’s main investment policy. It targets all regions and cities in the European Union in order to support job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improve citizens’ quality of life. It was highlighted that regardless in what the EU is investing, the UNCRPD must be taken into account. For instance, EU must stop investing into institutionalisation and start investing on community based services.
Philippe Monfort from the DG REGIO, European Commission, presented the 7th Cohesion Report, which was published by the Commission on 9th of October. Mr Monfort explained that the public investment in the EU is still below pre-crisis levels. Regions and Member States need to invest more to respond to the challenges identified in the reflection paper on the future of EU finances; the digital revolution, globalisation, demographic change and social cohesion, economic convergence and climate change. The Report suggests an EU-wide policy serving three main purposes: harnessing globalisation, supporting structural reforms and most importantly leaving no one behind, which is crucial for persons with disabilities.
Catherine Naughton, Director of the European Disability Forum, highlighted that it is important to build the capacity of organisations of persons with disabilities for them to be aware how to be involved with European Social Funds. Mark Wheatley, Executive Director of EUD, added that there are gaps in information about the ESF Regulations. Since ESF aims to implement cohesion policy and to create more equality which can be used as an excellent tool to implement CRPD, EUD will follow up on the implementation of the cohesion policy.
EUD learned that for the ESIF Regulations to be in favour of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations the partnership principle has to be effective. It is important to assess the level of accessibility and non- discrimination of the projects for persons with disabilities during the application process. Organisations of persons with disabilities, must be involved in the preparation, execution and ex-post evaluation of projects undertaken in the framework of EU cohesion policy.