Disabled people in Europe should not be treated as second class citizens
Flemish MEP Helga Stevens’ report on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been approved with an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament. ECR rapporteur Stevens, who is the first female deaf MEP, is of course very pleased with this broad support: “The large majority shows that the rights of persons with disabilities are to be taken seriously and are not merely a minority issue.”
Stevens asks that disabled people in Europe are not treated as second class citizens. “They must have the same rights to work and live in the EU as non-disabled citizens. The EU institutions must lead by example. Disabled staff in the institutions must get support to have equal access to employment. Likewise, disabled citizens should get equal access to public information and events in the Parliament and other institutions.”
According to Stevens, the EU has always been a strong supporter of the rights of disabled people, but more efforts have to be made to fully include them. Stevens said: “I will do my utmost to ensure this remains not only a piece of paper but can have a real impact on persons with disabilities, here at the European institutions and across Europe.”
The report was drawn up with the involvement of disability organisations from across Europe. In particular, the European Disability Forum and its members were included in the process from the very beginning. Stevens, as co-chair of the Disability Intergroup, an informal cross-party grouping, also worked with colleagues across the political spectrum and from different EU countries to achieve a balanced report. “A record number of parliamentary Committees were involved, illustrating that disability is not only a ‘social’ topic but one that penetrates all areas of life. Transport, gender equality, and disability-inclusive humanitarian aid are only a few of the themes touched upon in the report.”
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) was and still is to date the only human rights treaty ratified by the European Union as a whole. “All EU Member States have also signed it and 27 have ratified it as well. The EU is now under an obligation to ensure the provisions contained in the Convention are fulfilled at EU level and EU legislation is fully in line with the CRPD,” Stevens concludes.