The EU is important for disabled people with a minimum floor of rights being created in Europe pulling up standards for all. The referendum is quickly approaching, taking place on 23rd June 2016.

ENIL board member, co-founder and steering group member of the English NGO ‘Disabled People Against Cuts’ (DPAC) – Debbie Jolly – lobbies against BREXIT1. In her blog she gives many reasons on why disability issues have come about because of EU membership, including: non-discrimination measures on goods and services, promotion of independent living, measures against institutionalisation, combatting of poverty, challenging injustice in the UK through the European Social Fund, measures on accessible transport and the recent EU access directive. Jolly says:

“Disabled people and European non-governmental organisations are the ones that fight for disability rights, but being in the EU can help extend those rights and also help fund our battles…While we in the UK may know we have a significant battle, other countries have significant battles too in terms of access, attitudes, being part of the community, and poor financial support for the extra costs of disability – pulling out of the EU means rejecting our disabled European friends and significantly weakening our own fight too.”

There are more reasons against Brexit and voices for in this article where Debbie is quoted.

MEP Richard Howitt speaks out against Brexit as it will undermine the rights of disabled people. Follow this link.

ENIL promotes disability rights at the EU level as together we are stronger. Here follows some of the reasons we give for our lobby work:

Use of EU directives

EU directives have sped the process in the adoption of legislation that protects disabled people. Examples are the EU bus directive that obliged member states to change legislation and to buy in accessible buses allowing wheelchair users to benefit from public transport. Another is the work with the Discrimination directive that sped the process of adoption or the change of discrimination legislation at the member state level and even among EU neighbours such as Norway.

Use of the EU Structural Funds

With ENIL and ECCL, among other organizations in the lead, the Independent Living movement has raised the issue of the unacceptable use of the European Social Funds in building and renovating institutions for disabled people. Caging people in institutions goes against human rights. Countries are to offer community-based services and personal assistance to allow people to decide where they want to live according to Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). No one given a real choice would choose to live in an institution.

EU research

EU research has allowed for a wider collection of evidence and disability reporting.  It has lead to the creation of the Commission’s on-line tool DOTCOM, which facilitates disability reporting. The tool offers a range of reporting options by providing a selection of countries and instruments and themes. The use allows us to produce different types of reports, examine records in more detail, and export the results in different formats.

Spreading of good examples

EU networks facilitate the spreading of good examples within the union. Good examples can impact future policy and allow countries not to make some of the same mistakes previously made by other nations.

Common understanding of issues

Policy at the EU levels allows for a common understanding of issues and a widely accepted definition of concepts. A common definition of disability hate speech is a recent example of this. The ENIL definitions allow for a common understanding of our issues – where personal assistance is not assistance in an institution without choice2.

Facilitation of awareness raising and promotion of issues

Raising of awareness at the EU level is then reflected at the national level. Politicians take the issues home for debate.  Personal assistance and Hate crime are two issues on the agenda at the EU level and more so at the national level.

ENIL works in collaboration with other EU organizations in the ENIL Alliance. This work resulted in a resolution against the cuts that was signed by 40 MEPs. This work led by ENIL is ongoing

Better legal protection

When the courts at the national level have not given the result wanted people can bring cases to the EU Court. One example is the case of Dordevic v. Croatia, decided by the European Court of Human Rights in 2012. It has been the most publicised case of disability hate crime in Croatia and can be used to raise awareness and promote action needed to tackle hate crime. While we know that the European Court of Human Rights is not counted as part of the EU in the Brexit referendum, it is expected that the Westminster government may choose to also abandon the European Court of Human Rights, should the UK vote to leave the EU.

Advancement of the closure of institutions

The closure of institutions is an issue that advances with EU awareness raising and peer pressure. Countries are more aware that they need a plan to close institutions. ENIL was present in June 2015 at the parliament of Romania where the Romanian Social minister committed to the closure of the Romanian institutions by 2020.

Advancement of the implementation of the UN CRPD

All but two EU countries have ratified the UN CRPD. After the ratification the next step is its implementation and making sure that the situation for disabled people does not go backwards as stipulated in the Convention. Working again at the EU level allows for a stronger awareness and stronger legislation to make sure this work advances.


1Brexit is an abbreviation of “British exit”, referring to the possibility that Britain will withdraw from the European Union.

2 – read this article for more information regarding the ENIL definitions

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