Open letter to move European Commission’s Disability Unit

Disability impacts all areas of the European Union, and so should the the Commision in charge of it. This is why ten MEPs from across the political landscape and ten organisations (European Disability Forum, European Union of the Deaf, Autism Europe, European Dyslexia Association, European Federation of Hard of Hearing People, International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, European Network on Independent Living, European Blind Union, Inclusion Europe, Action Européenne des Handicapés) sent the following letter to EU Commision President-elect Ursula Von Der Leyen, Vice-President designate Margaritas Schinas and Commissioner-designate Helena Dalli:

It is a sign of clear progress that there is a Commissioner-designate for Equality with an assigned responsibility for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is with concern, however, that we see that this is not backed up by a change in the Commission services. If the current structure is not modified, the Unit in charge of disability issues, under the supervision of Commissioner for Equality, will not be able to adequately fulfill its crucial role in mainstreaming the obligations enshrined in the Convention across all the relevant Commission’s policies.

The full implementation of the Convention touches upon many different Commission responsibilities and policies: recruitment and selection of EU officials, internal market and digital market competences, transport, research and development, EU funds, international cooperation, and inter-institutional coordination, among many others.

This is why the Unit in charge of disability needs to move to the Secretariat-General. It should, furthermore, be fully dedicated to disability issues. This move will ensure that the Unit has the horizontal perspective necessary to ensure the advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities, and the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which the EU is a State Party.

Such a move is not unprecedented. In the Commission mandate 2009-2014, the Unit moved from DG Employment to DG Justice along with other Commission services tackling equality policies. The move was reversed in the mandate 2014-2019.

Moreover, this Unit should also be properly funded and staffed, if the EU is to realise its commitment to improve the lives of over 80 million Europeans with disabilities.

We therefore call on the elected Commission to establish a Unit fully dedicated to the realisation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under the Secretariat-General, as soon as possible. We further ask that the Commission implements the necessary changes to ensure that they can fulfill its mandate adequately. It is an essential move to ensure that EU policies do not leave persons with disabilities behind.

See the lists of MEPs and the letter here.