EDF: A disability pact for Europe: The future cannot wait

Stockholm, October 19, 2009. The European Disability Forum, the voice of 65 million European citizens with disabilities, met in the Swedish capital to adopt the proposal for the European Disability Pact. “This policy instrument ensures real mainstreaming of disability in the European Union by promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and by developing a strong agenda engaging both the EU institutions and Member States” announced Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the organisation.

Sweden is a European leader in the promotion of human rights: the government ratified the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in December 2008, and the Swedish Presidency of the European Union is about to reach an agreement on the conclusion of the Convention by the European Community by the end of the year. It is the first time in its history that the European Community will accede to an international human rights treaty. This ratification is a strong signal sent to the Member States both to implement the UNCRPD at a national level and to recognize disability as a cross cutting issue.

Such a political context implies a real need for coordinated actions. It is crucial for the European Commission to synchronize its disability strategy with Member States: the European Disability Pact is therefore the essential tool. Ingrid Burman, Spokesperson of the Swedish Disability Federation stated: “The European Disability Pact will be a driving force which will allow the EU and its members States to sail off to a barrier free Europe for persons with disabilities”. Through this Pact, the Lisbon strategy will give new impetus to the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, recognizing disability as a cross cutting issue. The Pact will cover employment, social protection, education, growth and competitiveness, e-inclusion policies and research.

Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum reminded the positive effect of the European Pact on Gender Equality adopted in 2006 and he stressed out: “The Disability Pact is meant to give a clear long term direction to disability policy at European level declined through the definition of strategic measures including legislation and objectives at EU and national level up to 2020”.

Following the recognition by the International Community of their human rights, persons with disabilities expect systematic improvements of their living conditions and respect for their equal rights in policymaking at all levels. EDF is eager to participate in the process of developing the Disability Pact. The implementation of the UNCRPD is a challenge for all stakeholders, and everyone will benefit from its adoption: the member States, the European Commission and 65 million persons with disabilities in Europe.