This week, the European disability movement and allies are in Brussels, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Since 2006, when the CRPD was adopted, it has been ratified by all but one EU Member State (i.e. Ireland) and by the European Union itself.
Last year, EU’s initial report on the implementation of the CRPD was reviewed by the CRPD Committee – a process in which ENIL-ECCL took part with its own Shadow report on Article 19 (Living independently and being included in the community). This article looks at what happened since, and sets out some of the actions taken by different actors to implement the Committee’s recommendations.
The CRPD Committee’s Concluding Observations (COs) in respect of EU’s initial report were published in October 2015. Concerns and recommendations were set out in relation to the general principles and obligations, and those articles where the EU has either exclusive competence or shared competence with the Member States. With regard to Article 19, which is of particular interest to ENIL, the Committee expressed two main concerns. Firstly, about the number of disabled people, especially those with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems, still living in institutions. And secondly, about the continued use of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to maintain residential institutions, rather than to develop community-based services.
The Committee asked the EU to do as follows:
‘[…] develop an approach to guide and foster deinstitutionalization and to strengthen the monitoring of the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds so as to ensure that they are used strictly for the development of support services for persons with disabilities in local communities and not for the redevelopment or expansion of institutions. The Committee also recommends that the European Union suspend, withdraw and recover payments if the obligation to respect fundamental rights is breached.’
There is no timeline for the implementation of the recommendations, other than the fact that the economic, social and cultural rights are subject to ‘progressive realisation’ (for more information, see the Handbook). In addition, it is important to note that the EU – just as other States Parties – should not take steps that would lead to regression in the respect of disabled people’s rights.
As explained by ENIL in its short analysis of the COs, the Committee singled out three issues where it expects the EU to take action within 12 months, and to report to the Committee about the measures applied. These three issues are: the declaration of competence (where the EU was asked to regularly update the declaration of competence and its list of instruments to include all the relevant instruments), the European Accessibility Act (which the EU should promptly adopt) and the monitoring mechanism (whereby the European Commission was asked to withdraw from the independent monitoring framework).
Since the publication of recommendations, the European Commission has indeed withdrawn from the independent monitoring framework (although a formal decision is yet to be published). The independent monitoring framework consists of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (which currently acts as both the Chair and Secretariat for the framework), the European Parliament, the European Ombudsman and the European Disability Forum. Information about the monitoring framework, including work plan and the meeting minutes, is regularly published on a dedicated web page.
The European Accessibility Act has still not been adopted – although the negotiations are ongoing – and to our knowledge, the declaration of competences has not so far been updated.
Not long after the publication of the COs, the European Commission launched a consultation as part of the mid-term review of the European Disability Strategy 2010 – 2020. The results of that consultation have not been published, however, and it is not known to what extent the revised Strategy will facilitate the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations. Through the High Level Group on Disability, the European Commission seeks to facilitate the sharing of good practice between the Member States when it comes to CRPD. The Eight Report, published in September, highlights some of the actions undertaken by the Member States and the civil society.
In June this year, the European Parliament published a comprehensive report on the implementation of the CRPD. Referred to as the Helga Stevens report, it includes opinions of the various committees and suggests specific actions the European Commission and the Member State should take to implement the Committee’s recommendations.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) also held a series of consultations with the civil society and other stakeholders on how to ensure implementation of the COs in the EU. The result of this is an own-initiative opinion, published in October, setting out ‘a new strategy for persons with disabilities in the European Union’.
To come back to Article 19, the upcoming mid-term review of the ESIF spending will provide an opportunity to assess to what extent EU funds are used to support the development of community-based alternatives in the Member States. Based on ENIL’s monitoring of the situation, progress is yet to be made in this area and Member States are continuing to fund smaller institutions, rather then genuine independent living options. Finally, we continue to lack data which would show whether the number of disabled people in institutions is increasing or decreasing. Where some information exists, indications are that the number of disabled people in institutional care is rising.
ENIL, with its member organisations and partners, will continue monitoring the implementation of the CRPD in the EU, and assisting the European Commission by providing examples of good practice and raising concerns in cases when the Member States and the EU institutions are in breach of the CRPD.
We welcome information about your country’s progress in implementing the CRPD – both positive and negative. Please contact Ines Bulic, ENIL’s Policy Officer and Projects Manager, at email@example.com with any information or questions.
Photo: Freedom Drive’s protesters in Brussels, 2015