The European Disability Forum welcomes the EU review

The European Disability Forum (EDF) reflects on the CRPD’s committee historic review of the EU’s implementation of the CRPD.

Words by Yannis Vardakastanis

“This is a historic moment for us. People with disabilities across the European Union have been hit hard by austerity, and face increasing poverty and marginalisation. Today, the UN expert committee has recognised this, and has provided a powerful and comprehensive set of recommendations to the EU. This gives a strong mandate to the EU, including all its institutions and agencies to fully address the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all of their work. The EU has been a world leader in committing as a regional body to this human rights Convention. It can also be a leader in the implementation of the Convention. We, as EDF, will continue to work hard with our members and allies to promote these recommendations so that 80 million Europeans with disabilities will feel the benefit of the Convention directly in their lives”, says EDF’s President, Yannis Vardakastanis. 

EU examination

On 27 and 28 of August 2015, the European Union was examined for the first time by a UN human rights committee in Geneva - the expert Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD Committee). Having ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010, the EU was called to present the work it has done on the implementation of the Convention since then. This is the first international human rights treaty that the EU as a whole has ever ratified. 25 out of the 28 Member States have also ratified. Today we are still waiting for the ratification by the Netherlands, Ireland and Finland.

EDF and its members, including CBM and colleagues of IDDC were also present for the EU review in Geneva to follow the constructive dialogue between the UN and the EU. Before the constructive dialogue started, EDF and its members had the opportunity to meet the UN Committee and to present their main concerns and demands.
The constructive dialogue was the end of an 18 year process for EDF and its members. Since its establishment EDF has contributed to the CRPD negotiations, the signing and conclusion by the EU and more recently the EU review process. The review process started in 2014 with the drafting of an alternative report on the implementation of the UN CRPD in Europe. This report was prepared in close cooperation with EDF members, such as CBM and its partner organisations, such as IDDC. EDF organised several civil society meetings to ensure that the voices and concerns of all persons with disabilities were reflected in the report.

The UN Committee published last week its concluding observations and recommendations on how the EU can promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Europe in areas such as: freedom of movement, non-discrimination, independent living, education, employment, legal capacity, access to justice, liberty and security, health, participation in elections, etc. The UN also recommended the EU to adopt EU policy on humanitarian aid and international cooperation.

Recommendations to the Committee

Other important recommendations the Committee made to ensure that the EU has a robust strategy and structure to implement the CRPD were the follow:

  • To adopt a comprehensive strategy to implement the Convention across all EU institutions and Member States. 
  • To undertake a mid-term review of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, and include the UN Committee’s recommendations in this exercise.
  • To review EU existing legislation and policy to ensure that it is in line with the Convention.
  • To review the impact assessment guidelines to include a more comprehensive list of issues for better assessment of compliance of new EU instruments with the Convention.
  • To set up a structured dialogue for persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in all EU decision making processes.
  • To ensure the independence and compliance with the Paris Principles of the EU monitoring framework, by removing the European Commission, and to provide adequate resources for the performance of its functions.
  • The designation of focal points in all EU institutions, bodies and agencies, and the establishment of an inter-institutional coordination mechanism for the implementation of the Convention.

EDF and its members warmly welcome the UN’s recommendations to the EU. In many ways they reflect the priorities of the disability movement. These recommendations are the basis for the beginning of an important period. The EU has been given powerful recommendations to make the rights of persons with disabilities a top priority.

The UN required the EU to provide feedback within one year on three areas: 
•    progress in its independent monitoring mechanism, 
•    adoption of the long awaited European Accessibility Act,
•    reviewing its Declaration of competences- this means the EU should bring its list of policy areas to which the Convention applies, up to date.

The EU has a follow-up review in 4 years time. It will have to explain at that moment which steps it has taken to implement the recommendations. The next progress report has to be submitted by January 2019.
EDF together with its members and partners, including CBM and IDDC will continue working actively to promote the Convention for the coming 4 years based on the UN’s concluding observations