Tuesday

6th Dec 2016

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.

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.

  • "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

Merkel calls for Muslim veil ban

German chancellor endorses partial ban on the full-face Muslim veil amid tougher talk on migrants to rally the support of Christian Democrats ahead of a tough election next year.

EU ministers approve 'Juncker plan' extension

The agreement to prolong the EU investment plan until 2020 to raise up to €500 billion will have to be confirmed by the parliament amid questions about its impact and functionning.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  2. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  4. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  5. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  6. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  7. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  8. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  9. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  10. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  11. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  12. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)

Latest News

  1. EU ministers approve 'Juncker plan' extension
  2. Commission tries to revive GMO opt-out proposal
  3. Merkel calls for Muslim veil ban
  4. Russia pipeline is security 'threat', US diplomat says
  5. Brexit deal must be done by October 2018, says EU negotiator
  6. Rising to the challenge of 'European Angst'
  7. Polish firm sues EU Commission over Gazprom privileges
  8. ID and police checks await all who enter and leave the EU