Monday

18th Jun 2018

Focus

Disabled people have a right to live in the community

On Monday (3 December), the international community recognises International Day of Persons with Disabilities. An estimated 1.2 million people with disabilities in Europe continue to languish in long-stay institutions. Institutionalisation is widely recognised as a systematic and egregious violation of human rights.

Today, EU Structural Funds, intended to foster social inclusion and egalitarian regional development, are being spent on exactly the opposite.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • "People in institutions are disempowered, isolated, and denied basic rights" (Photo: lamazone)

Several Central and Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia have invested tens of millions of euros in structural funds to build and/or renovate long-stay institutions for people with disabilities instead of supporting community-based alternatives, which safeguard human rights and are more cost-effective.

In Romania, it is estimated that €29 million in Structural Funds allocated for 2007-2013 was spent on expanding or renovating 39 existing institutions. In Slovakia, there is evidence that between 2008 and 2010, more than €185 million in Structural Funds were invested in renovating or constructing 130 institutions, all of which had over 50 residents.

The Bulgarian government decided to invest Structural Funds in the construction of 149 congregate settings for 14 children each. In Hungary, the current call for Structural Funds proposals allows for the option to build institutions for up to 50 people, and there is a chance that such new institutions will be built beginning in 2013.

People in institutions are disempowered, isolated, and denied basic rights like education, employment and the right to live in the community as equal citizens. Lack of heating, malnutrition, inadequate clothing, unhygienic sanitation, abuse and exploitation, and little or no rehabilitative or therapeutic activities are just some of the problems reported in institutions.

The EU must address this unjustifiable misuse of the Structural Funds. It is a breach of EU law and amounts to indirect discrimination. The EU and Member States when implementing EU law (which includes the use of Structural Funds) are under a legal obligation to ensure that standards are met under the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Specifically the EU must safeguard: the right to liberty or freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to private and family life; the right to live independently; and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of disability.

Community living means that people with disabilities can live and participate in the community as equal citizens with equal rights and opportunities, and focuses on individualised care, choice, and access to services.

Vibrant examples of inclusive communities are being developed in several Central and Eastern European countries by organisations that promote supported living and employment, inclusive education, and home-based services. What has been lacking until now is the financial backing to replicate these efforts at the national level.

Unless the EU explicitly demands that recipient countries invest Structural Funds in community-based services for people with disabilities, we will not see the shift to community-based models and appropriate supports and services for people with disabilities.

It is clear that the EU, as the donor of Structural Funds, has a responsibility to ensure that Member State recipients of the funds promote social inclusion.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee recently bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize upon the EU for what it believes is its most significant achievement: “the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.”

The prize should serve as a reminder to its recipient that it has a responsibility to promote basic rights for all of its citizens. That includes ensuring that its Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 incorporates rigorous measures to ensure that Structural Funds are invested in promoting the right of people with disabilities to live in the community. They are European citizens, after all.

The writer is director of the Mental Health Initiative, Open Society Foundations

Disability and EU austerity: a Portuguese case study

As executive director of a recuperation centre for disabled people in central Portugal, Cristina Silva has seen first hand how the economic crisis in Portugal is affecting society's most vulnerable.

Interview

Disability in the EU - a 'paradigm shift'

Over recent decades, there has been a "paradigm shift" in the way disability rights are treated in the European Union with policy-makers now focussing on how to make society more inclusive of disabled people.

Opinion

EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too

Non-citizens from Nigeria to Afghanistan get a binding 'vote' on whatever the EU's internal debates submit to them. They will vote with their feet on whether to keep trying their luck when faced with a new system.

Basque threat of 'second front' for independence

Last weekend some 175,000 people in the Basque country demanded a 'right to decide'. For some, it means more autonomy from Spain, others independence. "We want to open a second front within the Spanish state," says one Basque politician.

News in Brief

  1. Report: Audi CEO arrested over Dieselgate
  2. EU-Australia trade talks kick off in Brussels next month
  3. France and Germany moving closer to eurozone reform
  4. Merkel to meet Conte to find migration compromise
  5. Seehofer gives Merkel time to strike EU migration deal
  6. Schroeder and Sarkozy appear with Putin at World Cup
  7. Tennis champ and 'EU diplomat' claims immunity
  8. Italy threatens to ditch EU-Canada free trade deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. Orban to EPP: turn 'Christian democratic' or face challenge
  2. Is EU retail sector equipped for 21st century?
  3. Tear gas bodes ill for Macedonia name deal
  4. EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most
  5. EU summit: migrants get a 'vote' too
  6. Basque threat of 'second front' for independence
  7. Progressive regulation needed now for 21st century finance
  8. Greece and Merkel's fate top This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us