EU-UN dialogue on disabilities

On Wednesday, MEP Ádám Kósa hosted a conference to introduce the World Disability Report published recently by the World Bank (WB) and the World Health Organization (WHO). High-level representatives of the European Commission; the relevant UN institutions; the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU and several NGOs participated on the discussion.

Speakers of the meeting included László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion; Olivér Várhelyi, Ambassador responsible for social affaires at the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU; Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, WB Vice President for Human Development and Martin Krayer von Krauss, Project Manager at the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health. Several NGOs have also been represented; Lars Bosselmann from the Christian Blind Mission and Javier Güemes, Acting Director of the European Disability Forum both took the floor.

In his opening speech, MEP Kósa pointed out: "The new classification system of the WHO, published in 2001, established a shift of approach in the attitude towards people with disabilities. According to this principle, persons with disabilities are not patients in need of medical treatment, rather people whose situation can be measured and improved by taking their environmental and personal features into account." "For this reason, it is no coincidence that my report on the mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities, adopted on 25 October 2011, deals with this new, more flexible system, which promises to increase the share of people with disabilities in the labour market", the EPP Group MEP said.

In their presentations, Vice President Atinc and Dr Krauss introduced the World Disability Report which was published jointly in October 2011. More than 380 experts and 70 countries took part in preparing the publication, which corresponds fully to the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by the European Union in January this year.

In his speech Commissioner Andor pointed out that disability is not merely an economic issue but also a significant aspect of the fight against poverty and stressed the importance of accessibility to suitable health and social services. He reminded that the principal of equal opportunities is a core value of European politics and announced that the European Commission has ordered a detailed study to analyse the costs and expenditures of disability. In today's ageing European society, this may become especially important in the interest of sustainable development. "The European Social Fund must continue to play a key role in the next financial framework, among others, in the field of ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities" – said the Commissioner in his closing remarks.

Olivér Várhelyi highlighted that "Hungary has always been committed to the situation of people with disabilities, and it was for this reason that the issue of disability belonged to the priorities of the Hungarian Presidency." The ambassador pointed out that the Hungarian Presidency supported this position during the summer EPSCO consultation of the European Council, the conclusions of which serve as a framework of the European Commission's disability strategy for 2010-2020. "Therefore, MEP Kósa's report which reflects the European Parliament's position, gives reason for further confidence", the ambassador added.