2018 was a difficult year for ENIL – just before the year began, we learnt that we had lost the European Commission operating grant, which we had for a number of years. So, at the beginning of the year, we had to say goodbye to our Director Zara Todd, who had joined us just a couple of months earlier, and to our Membership Coordinator Dilyana Deneva. It was a difficult decision, as both Zara and Dilyana were, and still are, important to ENIL.
The good news is – we’ve survived! Despite having to make changes to our planning and budget, and staffing, we managed to do a lot this year. For the second year, we had two EVS volunteers – Miriam Graute, from Germany, and Lauri Heikkinen, from Finland – who supported our work in many areas. We were also able to recruit Kamil Goungor in October, to help us improve the way we work and connect with our members.
On the 5th May, we marked the European Independent Living Day, together with fellow activists around Europe. Towards the end of the year, we published our Elections Manifesto, and have started approaching MEPs to see how they will support Independent Living if they get elected on May 2019.
Our campaign EU Funds for Our Rights kept us busy, as we learned of new projects that fail to comply with Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Among other, we raised concerns about developments in Hungary, and with the Centre for Independent Living Sofia, Validity and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee submitted a petition to the PETI Committee in the European Parliament. We were also busy with the draft legislative package for the post 2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, and have published our initial response.
We are thankful to ULOBA, STIL and the Open Society Foundations for their continued support. Without them, we couldn’t have continued our work. We were also pleased to win a grant from the Bente Foundation, which has allowed us to start planning the 2019 Freedom Drive and our 30th Anniversary celebration.
We know that disabled people around Europe are facing hard times, and many countries are making it harder for people to get personal assistance, to be active or just to get by. We shouldn’t forget all the people who continue wasting away in institutions, big and small.
At ENIL, we have done our best to make sure that those in power know that we are watching, to remind them of their obligations under the CRPD and to make it clear what needs to be done. Despite our own limitations and the difficulty of advocating for independent living at European level, we will continue doing that, and look forward to letting you know in January of our plans for 2019! We hope to see many of you in Brussels at the Freedom Drive from 1st – 3rd October 2019.
Finally, we wish to pay tribute to some of the friends we lost this year – Kalle Konkkola in Finland, Matei Ghigiu in Romania, Robert Droy in England, and Aaron Abbey in Ireland. We miss them and owe it to them to continue our work.
On behalf of ENIL, I wish you happy holidays, and a better 2019 for us all!
Ines Bulic Cojocariu, Deputy Director