In the framework of advocacy ENIL is represented at many events and meetings. Some of the December ones are reported below. In the second part of this article you will find an update with interesting news from other NGOs and the European institutions.
The European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF)
Structured Dialogue on the use of ESIF
On 17th November ENIL participated in the 3rd Structured Dialogue on the use of ESIF. The objective of the dialogue was to facilitate discussion between civil society and the European Commission in order to monitor ESIF projects, review investment priorities and make sure that ESIF projects are implemented correctly. The most important topic for ENIL was the need to take into account the inclusion of disabled people when using ESIF. Most Member States take into account the inclusion of disabled people but the Commission admits that the inclusion targets were set quite low. ENIL was also invited to join the Thematic Network on partnership when using ESIF.
On 14th December the Commission has published country fiches with and overview of ESIF results in different Member States. The report can be found here.
The Thematic Networks (TN) on Partnership and inclusion in ESIF
In the Thematic Networks representatives from civil society, the European Commission and different Member States come together to talk about the concrete implementation of ESIF projects. Gender and social innovation are transversal themes across all networks.
The first meeting of the TN on partnership was organized on 23rd and 24th November. The purpose of this network was to explore ways to improve cooperation between civil society and Member States when using ESIF. The Member States represented were Estonia, Germany and Ireland. The civil society participants were Eurochild, Bussiness Europe and ENIL. Marie-Anne Paraskevas from DG employment represented the Commission. The first meeting was mostly introductory but it was agreed that the long-term goal of the network will be to put the European code of conduct on Partnership into practice by making sure that civil society organizations at all levels have the necessary access and capacity to monitor and influence ESIF projects. In the short term more Member States and local NGOs will be invited to join the network.
The TN on inclusion was launched on 10th and 11th December. With representatives from 8 Member States (Belgium (Flanders), Czech Republic, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden) and 4 NGOs (EASPD, ENIL Feantsa and Zero Project) this network was more popular than the one on partnership. The European Commission was once again represented by Marie-Anne Paraskevas. Most Member States focused on inclusive employment while the NGOs emphasised that accessible services and an inclusive society are essential for the achievement of an inclusive labour market. The long-term goal of this TN will be decided during the next meeting in April.
Alliance Against Disability Cuts (ADDC) meeting in the European Parliament
On 2nd December MEP Richard Howitt hosted an Alliance Against Disability Cuts meeting in the European Parliament. During the event disabled people could talk with MEPs about the impact of disability cuts on their lives. At the end of the meeting the representatives from the Parliament reaffirmed their commitment to adopt a resolution against disability cuts.
Disability Intergroup meeting
The Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament met on 17th December in Strasbourg to exchange views with different Disabled People Organizations (DPO) about the implementation of the UN CRPD committee’s concluding observations for the EU. 16 MEPs from different political groups attended the meeting. ENIL was invited to speak by the Intergroup. Other DPOs present were EDF, the European Union of the Deaf, Inclusion Europe, The International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, Mental Health Europe. ENIL’s speech (presented by Frank Sioen) mainly focused on the right to live independently (as set out in Article 19 of the UN CRPD) and the impact of budget cuts on the life of disabled people.
News from other NGOs and the European institutions
The European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)
On 16th December Michael O’Flaherty has started his new job as a Director of the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).
FRA has published an interesting report on the topic of violence against disabled children. The report, including an easy to read version, can be found here.
The European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD)
The European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) has published a report on the use of the European semester to implement the UN CRPD. ENIL’s executive director Jamie Bolling was invited as a speaker at the reports launch seminar. She talked about the impact of budget cuts on the life of disabled people and the need to follow up investments in individualized support services.
The complete report can be found here.
Learning Disability Alliance Scotland
In their December Newsletter the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland announced that the Scottish Government will draft new guidelines next month on the use of those restrained in schools. The guidelines will focus on the importance of positive behaviour and minimize as the use of restrained. Beth Morrison, who started a Scottish Parliament’s petition to call for changes in the way restraint is used after her son came home from school with injuries caused by restrained, was happy that the petition has led to concrete results.
For more information please visit the Learning Disability Alliance’s website.
The European Commission
The European Commission has finally published the long awaited European Accessibility Act (EAA). ENIL is happy that the act takes the form of a legally binding directive. This is only the first draft of the act, in the coming weeks, months and probably even years the act will go through the European legislative process of co-decision with possibilities for both the Council and the Parliament to suggest amendments. ENIL will follow up the process and will keep you up-to-date. For more information on the EAA and links to the legislative document and press release of the Commission, please see our website article.
The European Parliament
On 16th December the European Parliament has adopted a text in preparation of the the World Humanitarian Summit of May 2016. In this text the Parliament “urges the EU to commit more strongly to a human rights-based approach in humanitarian action to ensure that the dignity, and the needs and rights, of specific vulnerable groups – especially women, youth, migrants, people living with HIV, LGBTI persons and persons with disabilities – are respected.” The full text can be found here.
The European Council
On 17th and 18th December the EU heads of state and government came to Brussels for the last European summit of this year. The main topics were migration, the crisis in Syria, the fight against terrorism, European climate policy, the internal market and the relation between the EU and the UK. On this last topic the European council members agreed to “work closely together to find mutually satisfactory solutions in all the four areas at the European Council meeting on 18-19 February 2016.” From a disability perspective it is particularly important to keep an eye on the progress made in the 4th area, which is the demand of the UK to exclude EU migrants from work related social benefits and social housing until they worked in the UK for a period of 4 years.
Before the European Council meeting several European leaders stressed that basic EU principles, like free movement of people and non-discrimination between citizens, cannot be questioned. However, it is possible to work a way around this objection by applying the social benefits restriction to both UK and other EU citizens. For many disabled people social benefits are essential to be able to access the labour market, so if this option is chosen, it would drastically decrease inclusion in both the UK and the EU. ENIL will monitor the progress made on this issue and keep an eye on the working documents for the next meeting of the European Council on 18th and 19th February 2016.
The official conclusions of the December European Council meeting can be found here.
Independent Living News
International Advocate Award for the Independent Living leader Kalle Könkkölä
Kalle Könkkölä received the International Advocate Award 2015 from the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD) during the USICD’s gala on 2nd December. Kalle was born in Helsinki on 16th January 1950 and has been disabled since birth. Kalle was one of the founders of Threshold! – a Finnish Centre for Independent Living. Today Kalle is Executive Officer of Disabled Peoples’ International and Vice-President of the Finnish Disability Forum.
European Network on Independent Living – ENIL