ENIL’s annual EU Funds for Our Rights Campaign seminar took place on 18 and 19 June in Brussels. The seminar was the follow up of our previous events organised in 2017 and 2018. Its objective was to highlight the key achievements of the Campaign during Year 1 and 2, to continue the discussion on the current situation in the Member States and the key challenges for NGOs at the local/national level. It was also an opportunity to update each other about the relevant policy developments at EU level and the plans for the next programming period (2021 – 2027).

The seminar was divided into three sessions and it gathered representatives from civil society organisations, as well as some researchers, from 14 EU Member States: Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The last session was an open one, and provided an opportunity to have an exchange with representatives of the European institutions – DG REGIO and DG EMPL, Hungarian desks.

Two MEPs also attended the open part of the event – Ms Marisa Matias and Mr Jose Gusmão – while a Portuguese MP joined the entire seminar.

The first session of the seminar was dedicated to updates and lessons learned from the beginning of the Campaign, and the challenges we face when finding out that EU funds are not used in line with the UN CRPD. We also discussed legal arguments for challenging investments into institutions. Since the beginning of the Campaign, our joint monitoring has revealed investments or plan to use EU funds for the building of institutions of different sizes, in many cases group homes for disabled people.

The second session was dedicated to updates from the Member States. We found that there are many different challenges, from inadequate laws and policies, the lack of political will, the lack of public support for Independent Living and competing interests – all of which affect the use of EU funds. It appears that the problem of misinterpreting independent living is widely present around the EU. That is one of the main reasons why EU funds are still being used for projects that segregate disabled people.

The third session consisted of an exchange with the EU institutions, where problems from the ground were addressed again. Unfortunately, only two Commission officials joined the seminar, despite the fact that several more confirmed their participation in advance.

There was a call to the European Commission to put pressure on the Member States to involve CSOs in planning for the next programming period, as well as to ensure that definitions of independent living, institutional care, personal assistance – as set out in the General Comment No. 5 on Article 19 CRPD – are part of the so-called ‘enabling conditions’ for the next funding cycle. As underlined by the European Commission, there is a need for evidence and it is important to put in complaints to the Managing Authorities and the Commission when any problematic use of Funds is detected.

We will continue with  joint actions with our members and allies, together aiming to tackle the problem of segregation of disabled people around Europe and finding solutions. If you would like to take part in our Campaign or have any information about EU Funds being used to institutionalise disabled people in your country, please contact the Campaign Coordinator Natasa Kokic at natasa.kokic@enil.eu.

Please like our Facebook page and report any cases where you believe ESIF is not used to support independent living, but to maintain institutional care.