European Day of Disabled Persons 2007 European Conference addressed “People with disabilities – Active players in the Internal Market“

This year the European day of Disabled Persons European Conference did address the challenges of people with disabilities to be able to enjoy all four freedoms of the international market, in other words free movement of goods, services and capital, and to ensure that their needs will be fully taken into consideration in the Single market review to remove any remaining barriers as initiated by the European Commission in its Communication issued on 20 November 2007. FIMITIC was represented at the Conference by Ms Andrea Safarikova, Project co-ordinator, Union of People with Physical Disabilities - STP - in Czech Republic.

During two days, on 5 and 6 December, experts from all over Europe analysed the gaps and proposed solutions to allow disabled people’s participation in EU Internal Market.

The European internal market rules aim to facilitate the mobility of workers, goods and services within the European boundaries. If these rules have as main objective to develop the competitiveness of Europe’s economy, they are also part of EU main principles and rights to be applied to all citizens.

“Unfortunately, we are very frustrated to see that European legislation on the internal market has brought very few changes for the 50 million disabled people in Europe”, said yesterday Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum (EDF). “The EU has clearly failed to deliver an inclusive Internal Market for all its citizens. The current internal market review is an opportunity to tackle this issue. We demand a profound revision of EU’s legislation and policies, which must lead to concrete results for all EU citizens on equal basis”, said Vardakastanis during his opening speech at the EC Conference “People with disabilities: active players in the internal market”

Disabled people face numerous barriers when accessing goods and services, and most of the times, they cannot benefit from free movement, as non-disabled citizens. Overcoming the existing obstacles was at the core of the discussions undertaken by the 300 disability representatives and internal market experts from all over Europe, meeting in Brussels on 5-6 December 2007. The results of this traditional European Commission conference, organised each year in cooperation with the European Disability Forum, will feed the current revision on EU Internal Market rules. They will also nourish the ongoing discussions regarding further EU legislation to fight discrimination in the European Union, beyond the field of employment.

“We are facing an opportunity that the EU can not loose. It is a matter of Human Rights and we should find all kind of instruments to apply these rights. The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons gives all countries the chance to revise their legislation and therefore to guarantee disabled people’s access to goods and services. We need to reaffirm that we believe in a Europe for All” said Idalia Moniz, Portuguese Secretary of State for Rehabilitation, representing the EU Presidency of the European Union.

In his written speech, Vladimír Spidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities states: “The rights of disabled people to an independent life are at the heart of the internal market. All people with disabilities should be able to move freely while keeping their rights as regards social welfare, they should be able to make their own choices as consumers and therefore, have access to quality goods and services at the best practice”.

The Commissioner also reminded his commitment to fight discrimination in Europe: “I am determined to undertake the work that remains to be done to complement the European legal framework in the fight against discrimination. Our intention is to put forward in June 2008 a new proposal to strengthening the fight against all forms of discrimination”

For the EDF, as highlighted throughout the conference, the problems faced by disabled people are specific, and it is only through a comprehensive disability Directive and effective harmonisation that the barriers can be effectively overcome. Referring to EDF recent collection of 1 300 000 signatures all over the EU in favour of stronger disability legislation, Vardakastanis reminded to the EU leaders: “The Vice-President of the European Commission, Margot Wallström, promised last October that the EU will finally deliver to disabled people. It is a promise that has to be kept. The European Union has to free the internal market from discrimination and exclusion. The EU cannot just be the place for free movement of goods and services. It should be the place in which all citizens can exercise their rights on equal basis””.

During the conference closing session, EDF stressed that:

  • Disabled people should benefit from access to goods and services as anybody else. The structure of these services and goods should therefore be adapted, following the principle of design-for all.
  • European legislation on the free movement o services (such as banking, insurances…) should be revised and harmonized order to remove the existing barriers. Accessibility standards must be reinforced.
  • Accessibility and non-discrimination should be included as a main principle in all European funding instruments.
  • People with complex dependency needs require adapted solutions. Services should be coordinated, of quality and available for all.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled People should be rapidly implemented. Europe should go further than the level of protection proposed by the international UN Convention.
  • Further legislation to fight discrimination against disabled people in all fields of life must be rapidly adopted.

Nikolaus Van Der Pas, Director General of DG-Employment and Social Affairs of the European Commission also referred to the success of the EDF campaign “1million4disability”: “All those 1.300.000 voices are being heard and taken into consideration at political level. Don’t doubt about the European Commission determination and commitment. But despite the self-evidence of the principles, we have a long way to go”.

All documents related to this conference can be downloaded from the European Commission website.

Download the European Commission Communication: “Situation of Disabled People in the EU: the European Action Plan 2008-2009” (November 2007) (PDF)

EC Communication “A single market for 21st century Europe” (PDF)

Read also:
EDF statement for the conference on the European Day of Disabled People – Internal Market, a reality for all

Brussels December 5-6, 2007