Dr. Adam Kosa is a deaf candidate MEP standing on the 12th place of the EP-list of Fidesz. Mr Kosa, who is president of the Hungarian Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons in Hungary (SINOSZ) and chairman of the Council of the Alliance of persons living with disabilities, will compete as an independent, out-of-party candidate to become an MEP. In his interview given to EurActiv he stressed that as a MEP he would not represent an ideology but the change of attitude concerning disabled persons.
Has there existed any cooperation between you and Fidesz before? Was that the reason why you were asked to appear on the EP-list of the party?
I have been the president of SINOSZ since 2005. This organisation needs political cooperation to realize many of its goals; this is why we maintain good relations with all the political parties. This is how SINOSZ has been established, and the good relations that characterize our cooperation with Fidesz can be hold with all other parties as well. However, the question why they have chosen me is something I do not know the answer to.
Were you surprised by the request?
Yes, I was. I have thought that firstly it would be necessary to delegate a disabled deputy to the Hungarian Parliament, so I have not counted with the possibility to be sent to the European Parliament.
You obviously know that there is not any deaf MEP in the EP at the moment.
Indeed there is not. There is, however, a wheelchair-bound Irish MEP. The former MEPs with disabilities were either wheelchair-bound or blind, but there has never been a deaf MEP before.
This situation raises the question of new forms of barrier-free workplace…
Yes, it will be a great duty for the Parliament.
Have you already discussed the issue with the EP?
No, not yet. But I believe it will not cause any serious problems, since it is just a question of logistics.
The EP is often criticised for the huge amounts of costs the interpretation to the 23 official languages mean. The sign language interpretation will be another language to be interpreted and vice versa. Do you want the EP to care for the interpretation of the sessions to sign language or will you yourself tackle the problem?
In my opinion the EP as a workplace should obviously assure the unobstructed access to work. Sign language could be the 24th official language of the EU.
You speak both the Hungarian and the international sign language. From the latter we can often hear that it may differ from country to country. Is that true?
The international sign language is an artificial language based on agreements. It cannot be used by everyone but by those who work in international affairs. It helps the deaf persons coming from different countries to understand each other, since the sign languages used in the continent have a lot in common, though they are not identical. It resembles to the German language in some aspects: if you can speak German, you can make yourself understand in most countries of German dialects.
What is the situation of the persons living with disabilities in Hungary and in the EU like?
Hungary is behind the Western European countries in many respects. The gap between the number of disabled persons with employment in Hungary and in Western Europe is telling: in our country, only every tenth person with disability has a job, whereas in Western Europe, every forth or fifth disabled person is employed.
The work in the EP has a dual objective: to reinforce the representation of disabled persons’ right on the European level and also force the application of those rights in Hungary.
Here is an example: Hungary passed a law about the equality of opportunity of people with disabilities in 1998, which fixed the deadline to realise the accessibility of public institutions, vehicles etc. The Hungarian Parliament extended the deadline until 2013 two years before. We are afraid that the Hungarian Parliament will continue to prolong the realization of the project, this is why we find it important to elaborate a uniformed European framework for the requirements.
A comprehensive legal norm should be passed that would regulate not only the accessibility of the public institutions but would serve indeed the real interest of all persons with disabilities. It is important that every member state is committed to make life accessible for disabled persons, that there are specific tasks and specific goals, so that neither of the member states could defer to make real efforts. The UK is a very positive example of how to assure the accessibility of info-communication.
Are there already initiatives? Has the process started?
Not yet, unfortunately. There are initiatives how to exercise certain rights in different fields of disability. For example, the regulations of air transportation have already been prepared, but the general norms are not elaborated yet. Also there exist some regulations for railway transportation, but those concern only the international lines.
Even disability as a social problem has not been acknowledged by the society, although it is not only a question of the 600 000 disabled persons living in Hungary. If we consider their relatives as well, who also have to accommodate to the disability of the member of their family, the sum we get will be a large number. On the other hand, disability is relative: as we become older, disabilities appear more and more often, but of course as long as we are young we do not to like to think about it…
No Hungarian politician has ever dealt with the issue of disability. The related problems have naturally been touched, but what is basically missing is a global approach. I believe that this is the point where I can add something very new, and if I succeed, the implementation of disability policy will be Hungary’s credit – similarly to the international Roosevelt Prize, which was won by our country in 2000 for the national regulation on disability issues.
If you were elected, will you advocate not only the interests of deaf persons, but all disabled people?
Certainly I will. The addressee of the request was a person with disability, not a deaf person. My duty will be to stand for the problems of all disabled groups.
Have you already got in contact with other partner organisations?
I am the president of the Council of the Alliance of persons living with disabilities (FESZT), which is the umbrella organisation of the largest associations for different disability groups (but the blind). At the same time FESZT is member of the European Disability Forum (EDF), which carries on a very strong lobby. EDF disposes a budget of great volume and is supported by the EU. One of my main aims is to – by cooperating with the EDF – bring their objectives in front of the EP.
Furthermore, there are specific European organizations like the European Union of the Deaf, the European Blind Union or the Inclusion Europe (for mentally retarded persons). I have not got in contact with them yet, but with the European Union of the Deaf, in which organization I am a member of the Judicial Committee.
Beside disability policy, what other political field are you interested in?
I am interested in everything that concerns equality of opportunity and human rights. At the moment there is not any committee that deals with disability policy exclusively; these questions are negotiated in the Committee on Women Rights and Gender Equality. I would be happy to take part in the work of this committee.
However, there exists also a Disability Intergroup, which focuses on people living with disabilities, although the role and competence of this group is informal. If elected, I would like to contribute to the extension of the competence of the Disability Intergroup within the EP.
When does the Fidesz campaign start and what are its main political messages?
Fidesz is willing to carry on a short and economic campaign, which will reach its most intensive period in the weeks just before 7th June. The party has already launched a series of debate about the programme for the EP-elections, which includes conferences and professional cross-checking.
Fidesz considers me as an independent candidate who as an MEP will represent the problems and interests of people with disabilities. At the same time, the party wants to attest that my request was not just a PR-trick, but it wants to be compatible to stand for the representation of the interests of disabled persons. I consider it a very appealing attitude and I hope that this story will serve as an example to follow for the other political parties.
I will pay attention to remain independent. It is represented in my slogan as well: “Disability policy is not a question of being rightist or leftist”.
Can your candidacy stimulate the participation on the EP-elections?
I hope that the persons with disabilities will feel encouraged by my candidacy to vote. It is not because of me, but because of them: now they have the chance to show that their voice counts as well.
EDF has recently published an announcement in which they call upon the member states of the EU to promote the participation of people with disabilities on the elections and to assure that these people get all the help they need to be able to vote. These are basic goals and I want to enforce the manifesto of the EDF in Hungary.