EUROPEAN YEAR OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES - E Y P D - 2003-<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
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Speech on a Â“Strategy for Employability of People with DisabilitiesÂ”by
Mario Mantovani, MEP, Vice President of the Disability Intergroup
Member of the Committee on Employment and Social affairs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today in my capacity as European Parliamentarian, member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, member of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament. I am also pleased to be Rapporteur for the European Parliament report for the European Year of Persons with Disabilities 2003.
You will know that disabled people are 6 times more likely to be unemployed than disabled people. Disabled graduates are 4 times more likely not to be able to find a job than non-disabled graduates. 70% of disabled people are in manual or unskilled jobs.
As you will be aware, this is one area where the European Union institutions are acting in a concrete way.
The final adoption of the Non-Discrimination Directive by the Council on November 2002 marked a break through, as it was the first non-discrimination legislation for disabled people to be adopted at EU level.
Moreover, it was the first time that the concept of both direct and indirect discrimination, reasonable accommodation discrimination and harassment as a form of discrimination had been recognised by the EU member states.
The Disability Intergroup and the European Parliament played an important role in strengthening the Commission proposal for the Directive particularly in relation to:
The Disability Intergroup members of the European Parliament were influential in determining the position of the European Parliament on presenting a more detailed and more comprehensive, in relation to the definition of reasonable accommodation and defining more clearly undue hardship or disproportion burden for the employer in introducing these reasonable accommodation measures.
The European Parliament amendments ensure that an harassment is recognised in the Directive as discrimination
The European Parliament also ensure a strengthening of the monitoring procedure for the implementation of the Directive in terms of regular reporting by the Member States to the European Parliament and the Commission regarding their progress in implementing the terms of the Directive.
The Disability Intergroup met on 12 March this year to discuss with the European Commission how implementation of the non-Discrimination Directive was progressing.
We are disappointed to know that a number of Member States are extremely slow in proceeding with implementation. Moreover given that the Directive allows for an additional three years (a total of 6 years) for the Member States to implement the terms of the Directive in relation to disability and age, we are very concerned that Member States will seek to extend their implementation date.
The European Year of Persons with Disabilities 2003 provides an important opportunity for the disability movement, acting with the support of the European Parliament to push their Member State Governments on the implementation of the terms of this EU Directive by December 2003.
Disability NGOs must also work together with employers to ensure that the implementation of the Directive will be well interpreted and implemented effectively.
We know that legislation alone is not enough. Positive action is needed to break down the barriers of prejudice disabled people face from potential employers.
The European Employment Strategy seeks to address this through the Employment Guidelines and the National Action Plans.
Despite this effort, we see from the Commission audit of the last five years of the Employment Strategy that disabled people continue to be disadvantaged and their situation has not been much improved.
It is apparent that those Member States which set targets in relation to the objectives on inclusive employment for disadvantaged groups have shown greatest success and commitment in reaching these objectives of assisting disabled people into work.
The Commission is to present its new proposals were presented to the Spring summit 2003 of the European Council 20-21 March 2003.
The next generation of employment guidelines is to be based on medium term approaches looking to 2010 with a midterm review in 2006 in order to provide for a stable strategy and not to have an annual revision of the guidelines.
The Disability Intergroup have supported the call of the Disability organisations for better coordination between EES and the social inclusion strategy;
For national parliaments to be more involved in EES for the initiatives to have an impact at national level;
To focus on a more limited number of guidelines in the next generation of employment Guidelines so long as disability was given explicit recognition and of great importance was the need for better targets regarding the integration of disabled people in the labour market and improved statistics to monitor the process.
The European Year of Persons with Disabilities is an important opportunity to achieve these changes.
The European Year 2003 is an important opportunity for disability organisations to ensure the issues of importance and concern for disabled people are brought to the top of the political agenda.
I am pleased to have been granted the role as Rapporteur for the European Parliament for the Report on the European Year of Persons with Disabilities. I consider that this Report must be ambitious and forward thinking, setting the agenda for disability policy at European level for the years to come.
I am concerned that the European Commission have rather modest objectives for the European Year. The European Parliament are much more ambitious and share the objectives of the European disability movement for a comprehensive non-discrimination directive for disabled people which covers not just employment but all areas of life in particular the right to access goods and services.
While the EU non-Discrimination Directive in the field of Employment is important, for disabled people it is not enough. Disabled people will never be able to have equal access to the work place if they face barriers in other areas Â– if they cannot be integrated into a mainstream school with non-disabled children, if they cannot go to university, if they cannot socialise with every one else Â– go to the cinema, a restaurant etc.
Disabled people have waited too long for their rights!! We must use the European Year of Persons with Disabilities to bring about concrete changes at all levels Â– local, national and European.
At European level, this means getting a political commitment for a disability specific Directive
I have started work in the lead up to the Italian Presidency to lay the ground for a positive political support for this campaign.
The European Parliament is there to work with you Â– the disability movement Â– to achieve these goals.