MEPs Stevens and Plura on ENIL’s New Campaign

MEPs Stevens and Plura on ENIL’s New Campaign

In October, ENIL interviewed two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) – Helga Stevens and Marek Plura, who will co-host the ENIL’s event – launch of the new campaign “EU Funds for Our Rights” – on 8th November 2016 in the European Parliament.

Helga Stevens is a Belgian politician of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and member of the European Parliament since 2014. She received a law degree in 1993 and registered as attorney with the Brussels Bar. Before being elected as MEP, she worked as director of the European Union of the Deaf (EUD). She was also President of EUD from 2005 until 2007.1

Marek Plura was born in 1970 in Raciborz (Poland). He is married with two children. He graduated from the WSFP ‘Ignatianum’ in Krakow and achieved postgraduate studies in psychotherapy at Slask University in Katowice. In 2007, he was elected as Member of the Polish Parliament – Sejm – where he chaired the disability subcommittee.

Below you can read both MEP’s answers to the questions asked by ENIL.

 

  1. What can the European Parliament do to encourage Member States to develop community-based alternatives to institutional care for disabled people? In your view, what are the main challenges in this process?

MEP Helga Stevens:

The European Parliament, as you rightly point out, can often only ‘encourage’ Member States to develop community-based alternatives. However, as I pointed out in my recent CRPD implementation report[2], which was adopted by the plenary by a large majority, the requirements in the European Structural and Investment Funds, are one way to ensure the Member States use the funds for the purpose of deinstitutionalisation.

Furthermore, the Parliament stressed that it is concerned that the European Structural and Investment Funds are being misused to foster institutionalisation, and calls on the Member States and the Commission to strengthen their monitoring in line with the CRPD and in consultation with organisations representing persons with disabilities. In my report we also recommend suspending, withdrawing and recovering payments from Member States if the obligation to respect fundamental rights is breached.

I think one of the main challenges in the process is that those entities having to implement the Convention and the recommendation do not fully understand what community-based alternatives are and what it means for disabled people’s potential to be included in their community. This is where ENIL has a real added value and can not only support capacity-building activities at grassroots level but also at higher political levels.

MEP Marek Plura:

Encourage – that is the keyword of that question. One of the basic rights of disabled people, but also one of the main duties of a particular country is to create support that will allow people with disabilities live independently and in the most natural – the least institutional – way. At the same time it is worth changing the way of spending funds, away from strenghtening the institutional system, building new, closed centers, nursing homes. Of course there are situations when those are necessary, but it shouldn’t be a fundamental solution. Passing good practices on, which can be implemented in EU countries is also important.

  1. What role do MEPs play in implementing the recommendations of the CRPD Committee to the European Union?

MEP Helga Stevens:

As a member of the CRPD Network, I constantly try to implement the recommendations in my daily work. I strive for the European Parliament becoming the leading institution in implementing the recommendations of the CRPD Committee. I have always said that I think it is crucial that the EU institutions lead by example so the Member States can follow.

MEP Marek Plura:

The European Parliament perform a controlling function in relation to the European Commission and also to the numerous agencies of the European Union. On the other hand, for Members of the European Parliament it is also important to look after the situation in their own country and the implementation of EP solutions in the field of activity of national NGOs and institutions. Every Member State has to create its own regulations and support systems, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the EU Strategy on Disabilities allow us to establish, on a European level, common priorities and principles.

  1. What motivated you to co-host ENIL’s campaign launch on 8 November?

MEP Helga Stevens:

I believe that every person, whatever their background, disabled or not, has the right to achieve their full potential. Community-based care and ultimately, independent living, is one of the most crucial factors for this to happen. I am a strong supporter of encouraging people, whatever their abilities, to become independent and lead a life outside an institution. Monitoring and complaints systems are necessary and even vital in ensuring deinstitutionalisation is taking place in line with the CRPD. I look forward to your campaign and I will do what I can to convince my colleagues to support you as well!

MEP Marek Plura:

First of all – my own life experiences. I am a person with a disability from birth, I grew up in a family environment, but I decided to build my adulthood independently. I started from living in a nursing home, then I left that place and started my life outside. For me it is essential that a disabled person receives the exact level of support required for them to fully reach their potential and assert their rights. However, this is still not a widespread approach. It is surprising that in many countries and regions, investment goes into expensive institutions rather than on much more effective, cheaper, personalised and community-based solutions. In my opinion, only such an individual approach based on needs, rights and developmental paths allows people with disabilities to live actively and to contribute to the common good.

  1. What else would you like to see ENIL do as part of its campaign EU Funds for Our Rights?

MEP Helga Stevens:

I would very much like to see more visibility of ENIL and the campaign as such. I think your campaign has the right ideas and is going in the right direction, but it needs to get out there! It is especially important to target and reach out to MEPs and other stakeholders that are not traditionally interested in ‘disability issues’. They are the ones we need to convince.

MEP Marek Plura:

It is necessary to perform closer observations of spending of EU funds and direct them to support independent living with disabilities, without special institutional help.

 

1 – ENIL had an interview with Helga Stevens on 29th April 2014 which you can read here.

[2] Full title: Report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with special regard to the Concluding Observations of the UN CRPD Committee (2015/2258(INI)); available here

 

Photo: MEP Helga Stevens and MEP Marek Plura

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