The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) has launched its Briefing on EU Funds and Independent Living on 8th March at the European Parliament. The event was hosted by MEPs Miram Dalli, Jana Zitnanska, Julie Ward and Pascal Durand.

The event was moderated by Ines Bulic, Deputy Director of ENIL and Judith Klein, Director of the Public Health Program (Open Society Foundations). After the opening words by MEPs Julie Ward, Pascal Durand and Miriam Dalli, UN Special Envoy María Soledad Cisternas Reyes set the context, underlining that institutionalisation of disabled people is a cross-cutting human rights challenge for the European Union (EU). She also pointed out that the European Structural and Investment Funds offer a unique opportunity for Member States to implement Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to facilitate deinstitutionalisation reforms at the national level. She reminded participants that deinstitutionalisation is not just about closing down institutions, but creating services in the community accessible to disabled people.

The hearing was divided into two sessions. The first session was dedicated to the presentation of the briefing, followed by examples from the Member States.

Natasa Kokic, ENIL’s Campaign Coordinator presented the Briefing, which is based on data from 18 Member States, collected during the first year of ENIL’s EU Funds for Our Rights Campaign. The Briefing highlighted problems in the way Member States use EU funds, from investing into services that perpetuate the segregation and isolation of disabled people, to significant delays in launching calls to develop community-based alternatives to institutional care. It identified five areas for action: failure to comply with the thematic ex ante conditionality on deinstitutionalisation; investments that perpetuate the segregation and isolation of disabled people; inadequate monitoring and complaints procedures; lack of evaluation of ESI Funds’ impact on Independent Living; barriers to achieving meaningful participation and lack of information about the use of ESI Funds; and continued investment of national funds into institutional care.

Kapka Panayotova (ENIL President and Director of CIL Sofia), Dominika Milanovich (TASZ, Hungary), Andreja Rafaelic (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) and Corinne Lassoie (EVA, Belgium) gave examples of challenges disabled people face in their respective countries. They highlighted the fact that ESI Funds are used to build small group homes, which perpetuate institutional culture, exclusion and segregation of disabled people. They spoke about how national funds are being used for the reconstruction or renovation of institutions. In addition, they explained the many problems in the ‘partnership’ between the Governments and NGOs. Although the partnership principle needs to be fully implemented for Member States to use ESI Funds, this is not the case in many countries.

In the second session, members of the European Commission (Andor Urmos, DG Regional and Urban Policy, Egbert Holthuis, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and Nevena Peneva, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights) responded to ENIL’s Briefing. They encouraged ENIL to continue with monitoring activities, detecting problems and highlighting good practices in using ESI Funds when it comes to transition from institutional care to community-based services.

The EU Funds for Our Rights Campaign goes on and we will continue working closely with national NGOs to identify problems in the use of ESI Funds. Jointly, we will continue putting pressure on the Member States and the European Commission to take urgent steps to ensure that any projects supported by ESI Funds comply with the EU and Member States’ CRPD obligations, in particular Article 19 CRPD. ENIL expects the European Commission and Member States to up their game and improve their CRPD compliance.

To support our Campaign, please like our Facebook page. We also encourage you to report any cases where you believe ESI Funds are not used to support independent living, but to maintain institutional care, or where the Government is not complying with their obligation to involve civil society organisations in all stages of ESI Funds use.

If you would like to take part in the Campaign, or wish to know more about the activities, please contact the Campaign Coordinator Natasa Kokic at