ENIL would like to introduce the Greek MEP Kostadinka Kuneva and share with you her letter of support to ENIL in our Independent Living fight.
Kostadinka Kuneva is a Greek-Bulgarian trade unionist and secretary of the Greek Trade Union of Cleaners and Housekeepers. On 22 December 2008 she was attacked with vitriol (sulphuric acid), an event which caused her permanent health issues and sparked big protests in Greece. She was elected as a MEP in the 2014 European Parliament elections, with left-wing SYRIZA party. As she said some days ago: “When I became MEP, one of the first things I intended to do with my partners was to engage with disability politics. Because I myself understand what it means to live with a disability and I felt that I should express these difficulties and claim our rights through my work in the European Parliament.” And so she did. She supported i-living, the first organization for Independent Living in Greece, to bring the Greek delegation to Brussels to participate in ENIL’s Freedom Drive 2015. She also supports ENIL and is showing great commitment to advancing CRPD and PA in Greece. We want to express our sincere gratitude to Mrs. Kuneva for all her efforts and we hope that we will continue to cooperate in the future.
Below is an official letter received by the ENIL Secretariat on Monday, 5th October.
“Dear members of ENIL,
I am interested in your efforts that promoting the concept of independent living and I fully support your struggle. Besides my own vision for people with disabilities interlinked with the philosophy of independent living. That’s why I took the initiative to assist to participate in Freedom Drive as much as possible delegates from Greece. In Greece personal assistance has not yet enacted by law. So I am obliged to give them a “voice” to be heard by European Parliament.
And I can say with certainty that there are EU countries that reap economic benefits from the efforts to integrate completely and equally people with disabilities in their society. For example, when one person with disability works he contributes to the production and pays its taxes. However, all these efforts meet some obstacles. The first obstacle is the economic policies followed by European Union. We live in «the Europe of Banks» that accounts the human life by cold numbers and favoring the multinational companies. And at the same time the welfare state is collapsing. This Europe is very far from the vision of its founding fathers. They envisioned a “social Europe”. The best example for this is the “Greek Tragedy”. The loans from the EU countries the Greek government did not invest them to the welfare state and social policy but all the amount of money went to the banks.
Let me say some important points for Greece. First, the economic crisis and austerity measures have undermined some of the most fundamental rights of disabled people. All the economic adjusting programs imposed dramatic cuts on social expenditure. This situation led disabled to lose their access to healthcare and to social security. And unfortunately the European leaders insist on these destructive policies. Instead to invest money in welfare state they grant billion of euros to the Greek systemic banks in order to “save” them.
However, I must say that in Greece the disability policy was flawed before the economic crisis. The disability policies in Greece traditionally provide charity solutions to people with disabilities mainly by disability allowances. The Greek State did not try to implement a comprehensive plan for universal access, what we called «Design for All». Μοre importantly, the Greek government has never established a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the great declaration of the UN Convention.
What remain for us is to continue our struggle. As a MEP and Vice President of the Disability Intergroup I commit myself to use all the available tools in order to fulfill my vision which constitutes by three fundamental and crucial pillars. Firstly, the promotion of equal opportunities for full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of social, economic and political life. Secondly, the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Last but not least, I will fight for the law enactment of personal assistance in Greece. I hope my small contribution to your fight will be useful in your challenging future.
MEP of SYRIZA-GUE/NGL”
Photo: Kostadinka Kuneva