On 8 November, ENIL launched a new campaign “EU Funds for Our Rights” in the European Parliament. Its objective is to encourage Member States to efficiently spend the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) designated for the ‘transition from institutional to community-based care’ and to ensure there is a proper monitoring and complaints system in place to prevent ESIF from going into services which continue to institutionalise disabled people.

The launch was supported by MEPs Daciana Sarbu, Helga Stevens and Marek Plura, with the latter two hosting the event. Speakers at the event included Marie-Anne Paraskevas (Senior Policy Officer, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission), Rosita Hickey (European Ombudsman, Head of Unit) and Camilla Parker (Mental Health and Human Rights Consultant).

“Here I Am”, a short documentary directed by Michel Peremans, was shown for the first time. The film takes viewers around a large institution for disabled people in Romania, whose renovation was financed by Structural Funds. It also features people with intellectual disabilities in Romania and Slovakia who left institutional care after many years and now live in supported housing – with friends or a partner.

ENIL-ECCL report “Working Together to Close the Gap Between Rights and Reality”, published in June 2016, was also presented. The report analysed selected Operational Programmes for the use of ESIF in 2014 – 2020 and highlighted a number of concerns, setting out recommendations to the European Commission and the Member States. Their aim is to ensure Structural Funds are not invested into any more institutions – large or small.

Representatives of civil society, Member States, European Commission, and MEPs attended the event and engaged in discussion on how to mobilise support for campaign. MEPs confirmed their support and suggested larger scale awareness raising in the European Parliament, with examples of what is needed to make independent living a reality.

The overall conclusion of the launch event was that strong cooperation and coordination among all relevant stakeholders are needed, in order to ensure the rights of disabled people are respected – in particular when it comes to the use of Structural Funds. As the next step, ENIL will hold a meeting with Brussels-based NGOs monitoring the use of ESIF – disability and mainstream – to find common concerns when it comes to monitoring and complaints systems, and to encourage them to join the campaign. We are also planning events across the EU with local and national organisations monitoring ESIF use, starting in January 2017. The campaign web page will be available by the end of this year.

The campaign is supported by the Open Society Foundations – Mental Health Initiative. Contact person: Natasa Kokic, Campaign Coordinator, natasa.kokic@enil.eu

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