EU institutions and the CRPD – a view from Adam Kosa MEP

CBM programme the 'National Identification and Referral of Persons with Disability' Project in Lilongwe/Malawi

Adam Kosa MEP answers some questions put to him by CBM about the recent review of the EU’s implementation of the CRPD.

How did the European Parliament participate in the EU review on the implementation of the UN CRPD? What were the main challenges that the EP faced in the process?

Within the European Parliament (EP) representatives are appointed by a number of committees working together in a network to review and screen documents (including legislative and non-legislative proposals, as well as opinions) and activities to raise awareness of possible disability-related issues and promote a coordinated approach whenever possible in order to promote public debate and the political role of the EP in the implementation of the CRPD. Participating committees provide information on their ongoing activities (reports, opinions, studies, hearings, oral and written questions) related to the implementation of CRPD on a regular basis. Meetings of the networks are organised twice a year, where representatives from organisations of persons with disabilities and other stakeholders may be invited if necessary, based on the agenda of the meeting in question.

The European Parliament is also part of the EU framework  which promotes, protects and monitors the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I am one of the representatives of this framework and as such, I personally participated in the CRPD meetings in Geneva in April and August 2015. As part of the EU Framework the EP formally consulted with the European Commission on its answer to the List of Issues in relation to the initial report of the EU and the EP also formally participated in the Constructive Dialogue with the CRPD Committee.

On the 12th of May 2015 the EP held a public hearing where MEPs of the EU Framework and MEPs from the EPs disability intergroup, the European Ombudsman, and high ranked representatives of the Commission, European Disability Forum (EDF), European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) exchanged views with DPOs and European Institutions and Agencies on the List of Issues  with the aim to provide COM as focal point with relevant information for its answers to the UN CRPD Committee.

The European Parliament discussed  and voted on a motion for a resolution  on the 20th of May 2015 in which the EP lists its responses and actions in respect of the List of Issues and states that the EP

a. has set up an inter-committee coordination working group made up of members from each of the relevant committees, which has arranged awareness-raising events open to staff and MEPs, including the organisation of sign language courses as part of professional training;

b. has highlighted the need for accessibility in respect of universal service and the 112 emergency number in its resolution of 5 July 2011 and its Written Declaration 35/2011, which was a milestone in the development of the eCall in vehicle system;

c. notes that number of MEPs with disabilities increased significantly as a result of the 2014 elections; 

d. commits itself to working actively with the relevant actors to find a pragmatic solution to acceding to the Marrakesh Treaty; 

e. stresses the need to improve the implementation of EU legislation in order to ensure that those with disabilities can travel independently using all transport modes, including public transport;

f. calls on the Commission to deliver the requested explanation as to how it can ensure in current and future legislation that persons with disabilities are guaranteed equal opportunities, fundamental rights, equal access to services and the employment market, and the same rights and obligations in accessing social security as nationals of the Member State in which they are covered, in line with the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination, so that all persons with disabilities can enjoy the right to free movement held by all EU citizens;

g. calls on the Member States and the Commission to ensure that access to justice in respect of EU legislation is in full compliance with the CRPD, so that fundamental rights are accessible to all;

The main challenges of this work were on one hand the double role of the European Commission - as focal point and as member of the EU Framework and also the lack of financial and human resources of the EU Framework. In its motion for resolution (2015/2684(RSP)) the EP has already stressed the need for enhanced political cooperation within the EU Framework, including the necessary financial and human resources to ensure that it can fulfil its tasks as outlined in the Council decision (2010/48/EC), and urged actors within the EU Framework to allocate the requested resources to this task. Therefore we are very happy that the CRPD Committee recommends in its concluding observations that the European Union take measures within 12 months to decouple the European Commission’s roles - by its removal from the independent monitoring framework - to ensure full compliance with the Paris principles, and that the latter has adequate resources to perform its functions. It further recommends that the European Union consider the establishment of an inter-institutional coordination mechanism and designation of focal points in each EU institution, agency and body. This will certainly make the work of the EU Framework more effective in the future

Q. As part of the Committee on Development of the European Parliament, you have followed the recent adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 and the coming framework on Sustainable Development Goals. How do you see the role of the EP on supporting the leadership of the EU on the implementation of both frameworks? Do you think the Concluding Observations strengthen this leadership role of the EU?

Indeed, I took part in the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 in Sendai and therefore I welcome the concluding observations of the CRPD Committee that urges the European Union to adopt an implementation plan, in line with the Council Conclusions of February 2015 and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. I really hope that this will strengthen the role of the EU in the fight for reduction of the risks which affect people with disabilities even more seriously than others.

I favour the inclusion of disability in development cooperation, in line with the UN CRPD taking into consideration that a disproportionate number of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, often marginalized and in extreme poverty, unable to enjoy the full range of human rights. Therefore I am sure that the European Year for Development is a once-in-a generation opportunity to champion the rights and needs of all people, including the most vulnerable and marginalised, and persons with disabilities in particular, including children, young people, and women with disabilities. This was the reason why I have proposed that an INI report would examine these questions in more detail, hoping as well that this question is also highlighted in the COM's work programme for 2016. 

Q. How can the EP, and in particular the Committee on Development, support the implementation of the Concluding Observations regarding Article 11 and 32? How are these recommendations in line with the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction and the coming framework on Sustainable Development Goals?

The CRPD Committee urges the EU to take the lead in the implementation of disability-inclusive 'Sustainable Development Goals'. Based on this, the role of the EU will surely be strengthened. 
Based on the CRPD recommendations the EU has to establish a mechanism to build capacity and share good practice between different EU institutions and between the EU and its Member States on disability-inclusive and accessible humanitarian aid. The EU is also urged to adopt a harmonised policy on disability-inclusive development and establish a systematic approach to mainstream the rights of persons with disabilities in all European Union international cooperation policies and programmes. These are excellent news and are perfectly in line with the interest of people with disabilities.

The CRPD Committee takes the question of international development funding very seriously when it urges the EU to interrupt any international development funding that is being used to perpetuate the segregation of persons with disabilities, and reallocate such funding towards projects and initiatives that aim at compliance with the Convention. This will surely dominate the discussions during the international conference on European development aid post 2015 this October.

Q. The EP is the EU institution which represents EU citizens. However, there is still a need to involve persons with disabilities and their representative organisations as decision-makers, in and beyond Europe. How do you think that the importance of participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organisations is reflected in the concluding observations?

The EP had a fierce debate  in Strasbourg on the 15th of April 2015 on the employment quotas on people with disabilities in the European institutions. This debate was based on my written question to the European Commission  in which I asked the COM how many people with disabilities are employed at the EU institutions, and in particular the Commission, what percentage of employees have a disability and what kind of disabilities they have. The fact that COM couldn't give a specific answer to my question led to a fierce debate in the plenary in Strasbourg. In the debate I emphasised that if the Member States are obliged to collect relevant data, the same should apply to all the EU institutions so that they set a good example. Now I am very happy that the CRPD Committee clearly states that the European Institutions must increase the employment of persons with disabilities.

I am personally very happy that the number of MEPs with disabilities increased significantly as a result of the 2014 elections, but we need more people with disabilities in high positions in the European Commission, and in other EU institutions, too. And naturally on staff level as well. This is a very important step ahead because this will open the possibility for more and more people with disabilities to become a role model for others.

Finally, let me tell you that I am especially delighted that the Committee recommended to the EU to ensure participation of persons with disabilities, through their representative organisations, in the process of adoption of the long awaited European Accessibility Act. The adoption of this act will surely be a milestone in the life of many.