The European Disability Forum (EDF) held its Annual General Assembly (officially called General Management Body meeting) on 16-18 May this year in Zagreb, Croatia. The event took place in Westin Hotel – big enough for accommodating all 90 attendants! Participants started arriving on Thursday (15th May) because of the meeting of the EDF Project Monitoring Committee taking place on Friday morning. Friday afternoon was the time for meetings of the EDF Coordination Committee and the Constitutional Committee. Eligible for participating in these events were EDF board members only and the rest – delegates and observers of the General Assembly and the European conference, attended the Saturday and Sunday program events.
ENIL was to be represented by two delegate members – Peter Lambreghts, who is a member of the Board of EDF as well and Dilyana Deneva. However, due to health issues Peter Lambregths could not travel to Zagreb. This was the first EDF gathering that Dilyana (ENIL’s Youth Network coordinator) attended and thus was a great opportunity to meet people from all over Europe, people with different knowledge and experience in the disability field, and to create and strengthen the links between ENIL and other youth organisations.
The program on Saturday morning started with registration of participants – a noisy event, promising two lively upcoming days! The meeting was opened by EDF’s director Carlotta Besozzi and the vice president Donata Pagetti. An announcement was made that EDF’s president Yannis Vardakastanis was impeded by health problems in the last minute which did not allow him to be in Zagreb. Then nominations of the Scrutiny Committee and elections of a Coordination Committee member and a member of Membership and Credentials Committee followed. Elected were respectively: Christina Wurzinger and Knut Ellingsen.
Elections were followed by adoption of EDF final accounts and the final report of activities for 2013. These were unanimously approved by everybody present in the room. Next a review of the implementation of the Action Grant programme was presented.The last administrative procedures before the European Conference were the nomination of auditors for 2014 and the adoption of EDF’s triennial strategy and budget for the period 2015-2017.
Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning were dedicated to the European Conference “Monitoring the implementation of the UN CRPD in practice – the National and European Disabled People Organisations’ view on the EU report to the UN”. There were four sessions, which included guest speakers (disability activists and Croatian politicians) and discussions where everybody’s voice could be heard. Topics of the sessions referred to employment, involvement of disabled people in the decision making processes and monitoring the implementation of the UN CRPD.
ENIL’s delegate Dilyana Deneva grabbed the opportunity to seek for allies with whom a new project related to issues particularly relevant to the youth with disabilities could be planned. Unfortunately there were few young representatives of disability organisations from Europe. The Slovenian Muscular Dystrophy Organisation and some local Croatian organisations were among those with younger representatives and a contact was established with them. EDF members also recommended co-operation with their youth committee. A great outcome of these contacts would be a youth-related project on the Erasmus + Program.
Dilyana also used the opportunity to speak with some of the more experienced disability activists, absorbing from their knowledge and inspiration. One of the biggest and most notorious bi-annual events of ENIL – the Freedom Drive – was discussed and it became clear that Freedom Drive 2015 is being looked forward to by many! Hopefully, the new youth wave from FD2013 in Strasbourg will continue next year and many more young people will be attracted to come and join the march for independent living.