26th Oct 2016


Impact of austerity measures 'absent' from policy-makers' thinking

  • Steps up from a railway platform - Work on implementing the provisions of the UN convention on disability rights has slowed as countries slash public spending (Photo: Stuart Herbert)

EU politicians will next month be directly confronted with the effects of their budget-slashing policies when disabled people from all over Europe gather in Brussels to voice their anger at having their allowances and services cut.

Around 500 people are expected to make use of the "European Parliament of Disabled People" - an event last held almost ten years ago - on 5 December to tell EU leaders the obligation to protect disability rights remains despite the economic crisis.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Jannis Vardakastanis, European Disability Forum president, said the disability movement is not simply "doing nothing and waiting for the worst to come."

"We have been protesting. We have been fighting in many countries," he said at the recent launch of a study compiling evidence of the effects of austerity measures in the EU.

The survey showed a rise in poverty levels among disabled people, cuts in basic services and a return to negative stereotyping across several countries.

Vardakastanis cited his native Greece - bailed out twice by international lenders and obliged to implement swathes of austerity measures in return - to underline the importance of taking a stand: "I can tell you that because of the fight and the struggle of the Greek disability movement, the disabilities allowances of 200,000 disabled people have been fully protected from any cuts."

What campaigners are looking for is progress on implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - a charter laying out basic rights for disabled people such as community living and inclusive education.

The EU signed up to the convention in 2010. The vast majority of member states - except Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands and Malta - have done so too.

But work on implementing its provisions has all but stopped as countries seek to cut down budget deficits.

An issue that Vardakastanis mentioned several times is fear of a return to viewing institutions as a solution to dealing with disabled people while cutting down on costs - a trend mentioned in the study.

"It is difficult to make our dreams our reality but we will never accept to be put back in institutions," he said, adding: "We are going to fight make our dreams a reality even in a period of crisis."

A comment by an EU official underlined how profoundly the social thinking among European leaders needs to be transformed however.

Referring to the impact of austerity measures of people with disabilities, Jose Leandro, an adviser on socio-economic issues to EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said: "This issue is completely absent from political discourse on the crisis."

"It is also absent in many cases from the minds of policy-makers who design the measures that are being implemented to fight the crisis," he added.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion