5 December 2012 - On the 5th of December, more than 450 delegates from organisations representing persons with disabilities (DPOs) from all over Europe met with European Parliament leaders, MEPs and EU decision-makers in order to discuss how Europe can ensure the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in this time of crisis.
> WHY WAS IT AN IMPORTANT MEETING?
Following the 1st and the 2nd meeting in 1993 and 2003 accordingly, the 3rd European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities (EPPD) took place at an important time for Europeans with disabilities; in 2013, the EU will have to present its 1st report to the United Nations on the progress it has made on the implementation of the rights of its 80 million citizens with disabilities, as defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first human rights Treaty the EU has ever ratified.
The event was structured similarly to a plenary sitting of the European Parliament by also using the same speaking rules. During the event, delegates from DPOs voted a resolution calling on the European institutions and consultative bodies, the EU member states, the social partners, civil society, and other stakeholders to take appropriate steps towards the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities in Europe.
‘The 3rd European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities is a way to show to the EU leaders that there is just one response to face the crisis that is striking Europe: more democracy, more participation and more unified voice. Here today we are more, we are stronger, we are louder and we are in the house of European democracy. We claim for the need to open a dialogue on the measures that affects our lives. But let me mention and remember particularly the lives of the most vulnerable among us: women, youth, children and people in need of high levels of support and those living in institutions. We owe them to push for a better Europe for persons with disabilities’, underlined EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis.
Opening the event, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, expressed the European Parliament’s commitment to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in these difficult times of crisis: ‘There is evidence that austerity policy hit hardest the most vulnerable segments in society. There is a real risk that the rights and opportunities of persons with disabilities are taken decades back into the past. The situation today is simply unacceptable: persons with disabilities still experience higher rates of poverty and deprivation. Education, training and employment rates of persons with disabilities in some countries are still very low compared to that of the overall population. This exclusion has a huge cost for the persons involved but also to society as a whole’, stated Mr. Schulz.
He also expressed the Parliament’s plea for the adoption of a European Accessibility Act and emphasized that ‘the Parliament will closely scrutinise the proposal that will need to include substantial measures to be supported’.
The European Ombudsman, Nikoforos Diamandouros, explained Ombudsman’s role in the implementation of the rights of persons with disabilities in the EU. ‘The European Ombudsman is one of the bodies promoting and monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the EU framework. I can assure you that the Ombudsman will participate as a committed member. We need to be ambitious and pro-active to ensure that the EU is at the forefront in implementing the Convention. I will do everything I can to hold this commitment. As far as the Ombudsman is concerned, it is important that the EU lives up to its promises on the rights of persons with disabilities’, stated the European Ombudsman, Nikoforos Diamandouros.
All political groups of the European Parliament were represented at the meeting. EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis, called for a meeting with their leaders in order to address the challenges of the current period of crisis in Europe.