REPORT ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UN CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES, WITH SPECIAL REGARD TO THE CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS OF THE UN COMMITTEE
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) was and still is to date the only human rights treaty ratified by the European Union (EU) as a whole. It should be noted that all EU Member States have also signed it and 27 have ratified it as well. The EU is now under an obligation to ensure the provisions contained in the CRPD are fulfilled at EU level and EU legislation is fully in line with the CRPD.
Tomorrow the European Parliament will adopt a report on the implementation of the UN CRPD. Rapporteur Helga Stevens MEP (ECR, Belgium), who is the first female deaf MEP, is pleased: “The rights of persons with disabilities should be taken seriously; they are not merely a minority issue.”
In the spirit of the CRPD, the text of the report was drawn up with the involvement of disability organisations from across Europe. In particular, EDF and its members were included in the process from the very beginning. Helga Stevens, as co-chair of the European Parliament’s Disability Intergroup, an informal cross-party grouping, also worked with colleagues across the political spectrum and from different EU countries to achieve a balanced report.
A record number of Parliamentary Committees were involved, illustrating that disability is not only a ‘social’ topic but one that penetrates all areas of life. Transport, gender equality and disability-inclusive humanitarian aid are only a few of the themes touched upon in the report.
“Disabled people in Europe should not be treated as second class citizens. They must have the same rights to work and live in the EU as non-disabled citizens. The EU institutions must lead by example. Disabled staff in the institutions must get support to have equal access to employment. Likewise, disabled citizens should get equal access to public information and events in the European Parliament and other institutions”, Helga Stevens adds.
Adam Kosa MEP (EPP, Hungary), who was shadow Rapporteur on the report in the European Parliament's Employment Committee and is Co-President of the Disability Intergroup, said: “The EU has a strong track record of promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. Key legislation has led to improved accessibility, freedom of movement and non-discrimination in employment, to name some areas. The report shows, however, that we can do better to ensure that the CRPD is brought to life across all areas of EU policy and programmes and together with EU Member States we can make the rights of persons with disabilities a reality in Europe.“
Richard Howitt MEP (S&D, UK) who was Opinion Rapporteur on the report in the European Parliament's Human Rights Sub-Committee and is Co-President of the Disability Intergroup added: "It is right that the European Union's human rights mechanisms fully uphold the obligations to people with disabilities on our continent and beyond it. Given the full participation by people with disabilities and their organisations in drawing up the Convention, it was also disappointing to see the lack of formal consultation by the EU of organisations representing persons with disabilities in its preparations for the review process in 2015. Disability organisations should be invited to be part of official EU delegations to the UN for future reviews."
Kostadinka Kuneva (GUE/NGL, Greece), who was shadow Rapporteur on the report in the European Parliament's Employment Committee and is Co-President of the Disability Intergroup added: “I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate my colleague, Helga Stevens, for the work she has done, and all my colleagues who have intensively worked on the report and the opinions submitted. I think we managed to achieve a lot and to incorporate many good suggestions in the final text of the report. The resolution on the implementation of the CRPD is important because firstly, it incorporates and calls for active involvement of the European Parliament to the implementation of the CRPD, and secondly, is an attempt to establish and project the work the European Parliament does on necessary policies. The other EU institutions and Member States should take this into consideration if we do not want to end up with a text that will remain good in paper, but not in application.”
EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, said: “We congratulate Helga Stevens and the European Parliament for this report and the cross party support that it has received. We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the Parliament and the Disability Intergroup, so that we can make the recommendations of this report a reality. The last years have been difficult for persons with disabilities in Europe with austerity, unemployment and poverty increasing for women and men with disabilities. This report describes the pathway by which the European institutions can act to ensure that this is reversed.”
* The Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament is an informal grouping of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all nationalities and most political groups who are interested in promoting the disability policy in their work at the European Parliament as well as in the national contexts. EDF is holding the Secretariat of the Disability Intergroup and works in close cooperation with it.