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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities considers initial report of the European Union

Committee on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities

28 August 2015

 The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of the European Union on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In the presentation of the report, Michel Servoz, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission, said that the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 focused on enabling and empowering persons with disabilities, and aimed at eliminating barriers, particularly in accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health and external action.  Significant progress had been achieved in the implementation of the Convention, but Europe still had a lot to do because significant inequalities persisted, notably in the employment and education of persons with disabilities.  The European Social Fund invested in social inclusion and equal opportunity in employment and education, and would invest 86 billion euro in job creation; in order to access the funds, the Member States would have to demonstrate their administrative capacity to implement and apply the Convention.

Representatives of the European Union Framework said that its mission was to promote, protect and monitor the implementation  of the Convention in matters of the European Union competence as defined by the European Union treaties.  It complemented national mechanisms in the Member States, which provided the first and main layer of protection for citizens.  The members of the Framework were the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the European Parliament through its Committee on Petitions, the European Ombudsman, the European Commission, and the European Disability Forum.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts expressed regret that the European Union had explicitly prohibited disability-based discrimination only in employment and education, and had not yet adopted the Accessibility Law.  They noted that the Disability Strategy 2010-2020 applied primarily to the European Commission and therefore did not provide a strategy to implement the Convention, and asked about plans to develop a comprehensive strategy for the implementation of the Convention on the European level, which would involve Member States, the European Parliament and other stakeholders.  Experts were concerned about the significant number of persons with disabilities still in institutions and about the continued use of the European structural funds by some Member States to support institutions and not community-based services and independent living.  Sexual violence and other forms of abuse and exploitation of women with disabilities were raised as other issues of concern, and the delegation was asked about actions to protect women with disabilities and how they were included in the post-2015 European Union Gender Equality Strategy.

Monthian Buntan, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the European Union, in his concluding remarks, welcomed the commitment of the European Union to ensure that its funds would be spent in line with the Convention and the positive outlook for the draft Accessibility Act, and said that continuing issues of concern included lack of full recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as ongoing institutionalization and deprivation of liberty of persons with disabilities.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Servoz said that it was certain that the implementation of the Convention would improve the lives of European citizens with disabilities and said that the priorities were employment, education and social situation of persons with disabilities.

The delegation of the European Union included representatives of the European Commission Directorate-General for Employment, and the delegation of the European Union to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

Also present were representatives of the European Union Member States – observers to the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations Office at Geneva: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 4 September at 3 p.m. to issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Kenya, Ukraine, Gabon, Mauritius, Brazil, Qatar, and the European Union, and close its fourteenth session.

Report

The initial report of the European Union can be accessed here: CRPD/C/EU/1.

Presentation of the Report


MICHEL SERVOZ, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission, said that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union had brought the fundamental rights and freedoms together in one single document and that since 2009, European Union institutions were legally bound to uphold the core values of  human rights and dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law.  An integral part of core values was ensuring that persons with disabilities fully participated in society on an equal basis with others.  Currently, 80 million Europeans were living with disabilities; that was one in six people who still faced far too many obstacles preventing them from fully exercising their  human rights.  The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 focused on enabling and empowering people and aimed to eliminate barriers, particularly in accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health and external action.  Significant progress had been achieved in the implementation of the Convention, but Europe still had a lot to do because significant inequalities persisted, notably in employment and education: the employment rate of persons with disabilities was around 48 per cent, while only 27.8 per cent had completed third-level education, and one-third of persons with disabilities were currently at risk of poverty.  Employment was a top priority for the European Union, together with fairness and inclusion.  The European Union law prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of disability in employment must be fully implemented, and there were efforts to increase awareness of the existing protection against discrimination and to empower national bodies as watchdogs for equality. 

The European Union’s financial instruments underpinned the policy.  The European Social Fund invested in social inclusion and equal opportunity in employment and education; it would invest 86 billion euro in job creation, and Member States would have to demonstrate administrative capacity to implement and apply the Convention in order to access those funds.  The European Union funds were to be used to support conditions for independent living and enhance the goal of transition from institutional to community-based services.  The European Disability Card would allow people with disabilities travelling between participating countries, to access certain benefits in the areas of culture, leisure, transport and sport at the same conditions as country nationals with disabilities.  The Commission would make over 1.5 billion euro available to support Member States in the start-up phase.  The Commission was developing a new Diversity Strategy 2015-2019 that would include disability and would be part of a new approach focusing on talent management and had recently published internal guidelines for a better understanding of reasonable accommodation in the workplace.  The European Union was one of multi-level governance, with many layers and players:  the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Ombudsman, Presidency of the Council of European Union, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency.  Each body had a role to play to implement the Convention, while ensuring a coherent approach.

Representatives of the European Union Framework said that the mission of the European Union Framework was to promote, protect and monitor the implementation  of the Convention in matters of the European Union competence as defined by the European Union treaties.  This meant looking at the European Union legislation and policy, for example as regards non-discrimination in employment, passengers’ rights and the European Union funding, and at the European Union public administration.  In carrying out those tasks, Framework members cooperated and exchanged information.  The European Union Framework complemented national mechanisms in the Member States, which provided the first and main layer of protection for citizens.  The members of the Framework were the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the European Parliament through its Committee on Petitions, the European Ombudsman, the European Commission, and the European Disability Forum. 

Questions by the Committee Experts

DAMJAN TATIC, Committee Expert and the Country Rapporteur for the European Union, said that the European Union was the first regional organization to sign and ratify an international treaty and welcomed the aim of the Disability Strategy to fully empower persons with disabilities to enjoy their human rights and for full participation in the society and commended the specific prohibition of discrimination.  The Country Rapporteur noted that the European Union funds must be used only to support community-based services and stressed the importance of the European Union, as the biggest global donor, to really make sure it was fully accessible and inclusive.  The European Union specifically prohibited disability-based discrimination only in employment and education and had missed the opportunity for a comprehensive prohibition of discrimination based on disability.  The Accessibility Law had not yet been adopted.  Other issues of concern included the significant number of persons with disabilities who were still in institutions, deprived of liberty without their consent; access of children with disabilities to European schools which was not universal; and the absence of the right to vote in European Parliament elections.

Another Committee Expert asked the delegation about consultation with persons with disabilities in decisions concerning expenditure and the use of European Union funds at local, national and European levels, and how the European Union ensured an independent and consistent support to organizations of persons with disabilities to enable them to play the role envisaged by the Convention, particularly in the light of the budgetary cuts in the upcoming European Union budget?

An Expert asked when the Accessibility Act would be adopted and also asked how the European Union Framework was aligned with national laws and what happened if those laws contradicted it.    

A Committee Expert noted the absence of representatives of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament in the delegation and said that the Disability Strategy seemed to apply primarily to the European Commission, which meant that in reality it did not provide a strategy to implement the Convention.  What plans were in place to develop a comprehensive strategy for the implementation of the Convention at the European level, which would involve Member States, the European Parliament and others?

The delegation was asked when the European Union would undertake comprehensive screening of all legislation for its compliance with the Convention and how it would bring its laws and policy in line with the Convention, and how women with disabilities would be included in the post-2015 European Union Gender Equality Strategy.  The 2014 survey had shown that 34 per cent of women with disabilities faced intimate partner violence versus 19 per cent of women without disabilities: what would the European Union do to protect women with disabilities against sexual violence and other forms of abuse and exploitation

Experts asked about the participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life, including in the European Parliament, and asked whether any structural funds would be allocated for this purpose; a timetable for the approval of the directive on comprehensive protection of persons with disabilities, which would be in line with article 5 of the Convention; and what was the monitoring system in place for the implementation of the Strategy. 

What was the greatest challenge in terms of changing norms and guidelines to ensure that standards complied with the Convention, and in particular to incorporate protection from disability-based discrimination in European directives?  To which extent did cross-border health directives support the unique health needs of certain categories of persons with disabilities and how did the free movement principles and directives apply to persons with disabilities?  The European Union faced three specific challenges concerning the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and the avenues to vindicate those rights: shared competence in the law making process, complexity of the monitoring mechanism, and austerity measures.

MUNTHIAN BUNTAN, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the European Union, said that several Member States had misused the European Union structural funds to rehabilitate or even build institutions for persons with disabilities, contradicting the goal of inclusion.  What mechanism was in place to receive evidence of misuse of the funds and had there been cases of withdrawal of funds, or a request for a Member States to replace them?  What was the major difficulty in adopting the Accessibility Act?

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked why the European Union had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and said that all States parties to the European Union must comply fully with the norms of the Convention, particularly the directive on employment.  There were still some issues where Member States did not comply with the Convention, for example persons with disabilities, including children, continued to be institutionalized; what measures were being taken against States parties which failed to comply?  What was the state of play with regards to the Disability Strategy 2010-2020, was it going to be revised and would it be discontinued?  What percentage of structural funds was being allocated for the implementation of the Convention?

Response by the Delegation

With regards to the use of the European Union structural funds in line with the Convention and the monitoring, the delegation said that during the period 2007-2013 the applicable rules had been rather loose; in the 2014-2020 period, the rule ex ante conditionality applied, which meant that the Commission could block or even withdraw the funds which had been used by Member States in contravention to the guidelines, in particular the rule to only use the European Union funds to support independent living and not institutionalization. 

Legal enforcement was the responsibility that the Commission had under the treaty, which led to an infringement procedure, i.e. if national legislation of a Member State was not in line with the Commission’s directives.  There were currently five open infringement procedures, two of them related to disability issues.  The European Union Accessibility Act was a piece of legislation prepared by the Commission over a long period of time; it had been ready in 2014 and the previous Commission had decided not to adopt it at that time, but to ensure that the new Commission took the ownership of that piece of legislation.  The consultation was in its last phases, and the Committee was poised to adopt the Act.  In preparing this draft legislation, all stakeholders responsible and interested in the subject had been consulted with; in addition, new rules for better regulations were in place, which meant that once adopted, the Accessibility Act would be offered for a second round of consultations for eight weeks, which would be the opportunity for disabled persons organizations to express their views on the draft legislation, and propose and discuss amendments.

Disability issues had historically been part of the Directorate-General for Employment, which it had left in 2009; the new Commissioner had decided to bring the issues back to the Directorate-General for Employment, which had extensive coordination within the Commission on issues relating to disability.  The Directorate-General for Employment was responsible for mainstreaming of disability issues in the work Commission’s services, and was also responsible for the coordination of the implementation of the Convention.

The European Union Disability Strategy had been adopted for the period 2010-2020, basically before the entry onto force of the Convention; the objectives of the Strategy were fully aligned with the Convention and were fully valid for the next five years.  What needed to be done was the assessment of the implementation to date; a progress report would be issued which would explain how the Strategy had been implemented, and then the decision on the next phase would be made.  The Strategy was for the Commission to implement.

The European Commission acted to coordinate the action of Member States to ensure that it was consistent and aligned with the objectives of the Convention.  One of the coordination tools was the Disability High-Level Group, composed of representatives of Member States and civil society; it met every semester and discussed issues related to the Convention.  The World Forum met annually with Member States and organizations of persons with disabilities, while the Working Group of the Council of Europe discussed issues related to the Convention.

The public consultation on Gender Strategy had just been completed and the Commission was analysing the results, but it must be mentioned that several other actions had been taken to protect women from violence, including the protection from harassment in the workplace, trafficking in human beings, and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.  The proposal on maternity leave had been blocked in the Parliament, and the Commission had decided to withdraw the proposal and replace it with a more comprehensive approach which would include parental leave, child care issues, tax incentives, et cetera.  

The new rules on better regulation were more precise and would enable better taking into account of disability issues: officials offering legislative proposals were requested to ensure that they were aligned with the provisions of the Convention. 

Questions by the Experts

Committee Experts noted the directive on social protection assistance, which allowed Member States not to provide social assistance to non-nationals during the first three months of residence during which they were not economically active, and said that this was discriminatory for persons with disabilities, who usually were not economically active during the first three months.  As part of the Joint Action in Health and Wellbeing and Health Policy, what measures were in place to ensure that persons with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, were protected from medical treatments without their consent, such as forced abortion or forced sterilization. 

The delegation was asked to explain how it ensured access to justice by removing barriers based on legal capacity status and unfitness to stand trial, and about persons with disabilities without legal capacity who were automatically deprived of their right to vote in 21 European countries, including in elections for the European Parliament, and how many times the Commission had recalled the structural funds and from which countries, because they had been used contrary to the provisions of the Convention. 

Another Expert said that the European Union took too long a time to act and wondered about the expiration date for the patience of those waiting for the structural funds. It was important to have good examples of how supported decision-making looked like and the Expert wondered when would the European Union proceed to collect such good practice from its Member States.  When would the Commission act on the recommendation by the European Parliament and ban forced sterilization in the European Union?  

How did the Commission talk with disabled persons’ organizations in the European Union and with those abroad who were concerned with or implementing international cooperation programmes in the area of disability? 

DAMJAN TATIC, Committee Expert and the Country Rapporteur for the European Union, asked how the European Union would ensure that the aid to Member States and countries of transit of migrants would be provided in a disability-inclusive manner.  Leading reasons for the unemployment of persons with disabilities was lack of accessibility, and lack of access to inclusive education or to personal assistant schemes.  Because of austerity, many social services which ensured independent living of persons with disabilities were being cut, including the provision of personal assistant services; had an assessment of impact of austerity measures on independent living been conducted?

The rules for the use of the European Union funds had been strengthened since 2014, said an Expert, noting that monitoring of funds used for infrastructure was rather straightforward, and asked how the Commission monitored the use of funds for guardianship regimes, for example.

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, asked which percentage of the structural funds had been allocated for persons with disabilities and what was the sum allocated in 2015.  How far had the European Union complied with its obligations to allocate resources to countries facing economic difficulties and to persons with disabilities with the view of implementation of the Convention?  What were the reasons for which the European Union had not legislated on legal capacity, which could also be seen under the angle of liberty, security and justice?

Response by the Delegation

The challenges in assessing the impact of the ratification of the Convention on the daily lives of persons with disabilities included: lack of data on the situation of persons with disabilities; difficulty in understanding whether a specific situation of persons with disabilities was due to general context, i.e. economic crisis, or to a particular legal instrument; and shared competencies on the implementation of the Convention between the European Union and Member States which made it difficult to understand the impact of actions of the European Union and actions of Member States.  The review of the Disability Strategy 2010-2020 which would take place next year would include a chapter on the impact of the Convention on the lives of persons with disabilities; the Commission would publish a survey on disabilities and social participation which would include data on the situation of persons with disabilities in education, employment and poverty.

Shared competence meant that both the European Union and Member States might adopt legally-binding acts in the area concerned, but Member States could only do so where the European Union had not exercised its competence or had explicitly ceased to do so.  The areas and powers that fell under shared competences were diversified and it was necessary to look into a specific article of the Treaty to check whether the European Union had the competence. 

The Commission was not able to provide information on the percentage of the European structural funds for the implementation of the Convention during the period 2007-2013, because there was no systematic data collection on disability.  The Fund’s budget for the priority axes in which persons with disabilities had participated amounted to 49.53 billion euro, which had supported 4.7 million persons with disabilities in areas of employment, social inclusion and education.  During the period 2014-2020 programming period, at least 20 per cent of the European structural funds would target social inclusion.

With regards to the European Union’s action to stop the use of its funds to support institutions, thematic ex-ante conditionality required that national strategies for reducing poverty included the shift to community-based services; this conditionality was a pre-requisite for the approval of Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes.  The Commission would use its powers to suspend or withdraw payments in the future, to ensure that funds were used in compliance with the Convention. 

The European Expert Group on Deinstitutionalization gathered non-governmental organizations, international organizations and other stakeholders to reinforce the dialogue on the shift to community-based services.  The European Fundamental Rights Agency had developed  human rights indicators to enable the assessment of measures to promote the transition from institutions to community-based care, in order to contribute to monitoring the right to independent living enshrined in article 19 of the Convention.  The project also included developing typology of institutions in the European Union as well as community-based services taking into account the requirements of the Convention, namely quality of service, attention to individual needs, and freedom of choice. 

It should be the responsibility of Member States to assess the impact of austerity measures on the situation of persons with disabilities.  The Commission had issued guidelines to ensure that social expenditure was protected from austerity measures.  One of the instruments to help countries facing difficult situations was the Fund for European Aid for the Most Deprived, which targeted people living in extreme poverty.

Free movement was a basic right recognized by the European Union treaties, and all European citizens, with or without disabilities, had access to it.  The Commission was developing a Labour Mobility Package, now open to public consultation, which would analyse and report objectively on mobility flows and their consequences on national labour markets and social security systems.  It was also assessing the impact of possible changes to the Social Security Coordination Regulation, particularly in relation to the coordination of family benefits, unemployment benefits, long-term care, and access to welfare benefits for economically inactive persons, with the objective of continuing to promote free movement of workers whilst at the same time helping Member States to prevent and fight fraudulent or abusive behaviour.

Persons with disabilities and their organizations participated in consultations on the Accessibility Act, and disabled persons’ organizations had also participated in the study to prepare options for accessibility legislation and provide data on their possible socio-economic impact.  It was true that the disabled persons’ organizations had not seen the draft law, but under the new rules on consultations, they would have eight weeks to react to the draft text.

In the 2015-2017 period, about two million euro would be available annually to support and strengthen the operational and advocacy capacity of organizations, and would continue to support the implementation of the Convention and the Disability Strategy, and the law and policy making on European and national levels on disability, accessibility and transition from institutional to community-based care.  One example of the European Union-funded awareness raising tools was the myth buster on independent living published by the European Network of Independent Living in December 2104 under the project Proud, Strong and Visible – Promoting the Choice, Control and Participation of Disabled People in Europe.

The European Union did not have direct competence to regulate the substance law concerning the recognition and exercise of legal capacity in Member States, and could not legislate on this issue at the European level, although it clearly understood that this was an issue that impacted the full enjoyment of other rights, including the European Union citizenship rights.  The action in the area of employment aimed at coordinating, supporting and complementing national efforts and it was clear that employment was the competence of Member States.  The new employment guidelines proposed by the Commission had clear reference to the importance of inclusiveness, fairness, combatting poverty and promoting equal opportunities.  A key to achieving this was breaking down barriers at work and in everyday life for several disadvantaged groups, and persons with disabilities were among them.  The Employment Equality Directive provided protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability in employment, occupation and vocational training, and it covered both public and private bodies.

In 2014, the Commission had stepped up its attention to disability issues, and had developed with the Council of Europe a disability toolkit for emergency preparedness and response.  In March 2015, the Council of Europe had adopted conclusions on disability-inclusive disaster management, and the Commission’s humanitarian guidelines on shelter and settlements, where the needs of persons with disabilities would be considered, would be published in 2015.  In its external action, the Commission was increasingly including explicit provisions for the social inclusion and  human rights of persons with disabilities in key regulations, such as the recent one establishing the financing instruments for development cooperation and for democracy and  human rights for the period 2014-2020.  The modalities for voting in elections were the competences of Member States, and the elections of the Members of the European Parliament were governed in each Member States by its national provisions.  Member States who were party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities remained responsible to ensure the respect for the rights of persons with disabilities.

Justice, civil or criminal, was an area of shared competence, and the European Union legislation addressed the rights and needs of persons with disabilities as regards access to justice.  The European Union victims rights’ directive of 2012, which would be applicable from November 2015, required Member States to ensure that persons with disabilities were able to fully benefit from the rights set out in the directive on an equal basis with others.  The Directive explicitly mentioned disability as a factor to consider when assessing the vulnerability of a victim, and obliged Member States to ensure that communications with victims were given in simple and accessible language.  Important progress had been made on procedural rights in criminal proceedings: the 2012 Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings laid down rules concerning suspects’ of accused persons’ rights to information relating to their rights in criminal proceeding and obliged Member States to ensure that the information provided was given in simple and accessible language, taking into account any particular need of the vulnerable situation of the suspect or accused.  The Commission had funded multi-country research on access to justice for children with mental disabilities in order to strengthen access to justice and legal remedies for children with intellectual or psycho-disabilities who had been victims of human rights violations.    

Questions by the Committee Experts

A Committee Expert urged the European Union Member States which had not yet done so to ratify the Convention and so ensure the full respect of the rights of persons with disabilities and asked about the inclusion of persons with disabilities and disability issues in the Sustainable Development Goals.  There was a concern that the European Union Framework - the European Union monitoring mechanism - was not aligned to the Paris Principles, particularly in terms of independence, and that resources provided to it were not sufficient.

Other Experts asked the delegation to inform the Committee about its commitment to the implementation of the Convention and whether poverty was in its overall policy agenda; the plans to ensure that there was no rejection policy based on disability in European Schools and that all children with disabilities enjoyed their right to inclusive education in European Schools; and action taken to address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities provided by the Convention, as reported by the European Fundamental Rights Agency, for example violations of the right to independent living by some Member States.

The European Union, as the biggest donor, would play the leading role in the implementation of the post-2015 development framework and the delegation was asked how it would ensure that persons with disabilities would be included.  How many persons with disabilities were employed in European institutions, including in the Commission and the Parliament?

DAMJAN TATIC, Committee Expert and the Country Co-Rapporteur for the European Union, noted that reasonable accommodation was a relatively new concept in the public law and asked the delegation to provide some examples of reasonable accommodation provided and whether there were any examples where it had been denied as undue unjust burden.  How many the European Union staff members who had children with disabilities had applied for double-child allowance benefits?  

MUNTHIAN BUNTAN, Committee Expert and the Country Co-Rapporteur for the European Union, asked what action was the European Union taking to ensure that Member States legally recognized sign language and Braille, and what it had done to ensure that its own information had been disseminated and presented in accessible modes.  How would the European Union resolve the conflict between the limits on the rights of persons with disabilities and the Fundamental Rights Charter of the European Union with respect to political rights of all citizens? 

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, noted that the Disability Strategy 2010-2020 did not contain indicators on compliance and asked whether this would be addressed during the review.
 
Response by the Delegation

The Employment Equality Directive provided protection against discrimination on the grounds of disability in employment, education and vocational training, and required Member States to prohibit direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimization. 

Each of the institutions in the European Framework was independent, each was a part of check and balances and each had a role of checking on the others, which ensured their full independence from the Commission.  The work done on children with disabilities would be presented at the annual Conference on Disability which would take place in December 2015.

The European Union planned to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through the development of indicators which would concern socio-economic inclusion, including of persons with disabilities.  Data on disability among the European Union staff could only be collected on a voluntary basis; a recent survey had shown that 5.7 per cent of the staff were with some form of disability. 

There were clear training modules on incorporation of disability in development cooperation, while each of the 139 delegations had a focal point on  human rights and disability issues.  The two-track idea of mainstreaming and direct project in the area of disability underlined the activities; projects were implemented as support to national budgets, or through direct support to operational partners.

Concluding Remarks

MICHEL SERVOZ, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission, said that the ratification of the Convention had reinforced the European Union’s long-standing commitment of promoting equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.  It was certain that the implementation of the Convention would improve the lives of European citizens with disability.  Employment, education and social situation were areas where persons with disabilities were in worse situations than other citizens, and this was not acceptable.

MUNTHIAN BUNTAN, Committee Expert and the Country Co-Rapporteur for the European Union, welcomed the commitment of the European Union to ensure that its funds would be spent in line with the Convention, the positive outlook for the draft Accessibility Act which would be soon adopted by the Commission and be on its way to consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, and also welcomed the announcement that the draft Equality Treatment Directive prohibiting disability-based discrimination beyond employment and vocational training would not be collecting dust forever.  Among issues of concern were the lack of full recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities, continued institutionalization and deprivation of liberty of persons with disabilities by several Member States, and the absence of a clear-cut, comprehensive plan and practice of disability inclusion in  policies, programmes and activities. 

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Committee Chairperson, expressed hope that in the European Union, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would enjoy the highest ranking.
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