A Major Test for the European Union – stop spending taxpayers’ money to Institutionalise EU citizens.
There is a clamour around Europe to ensure that increasingly scarce European monies are not spent on institutionalising its citizens but are used instead to help States to promote a philosophy of living independently and being included in the community. To highlight the issue and press claims for a change in the Funds, a broad spectrum of European interest groups covering the disabled and the elderly, as well as national and international policy makers, will be brought together at a major conference organised by the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway on Friday, 3 May.
The issue is urgent as negotiations to agree new Regulations governing the EU Structural Funds are in their final stages. Advocates are not calling for more money – simply for an end to spending the available monies on institutions and a commitment of available resources to help the process of community living.
The conference, ‘Community Living for All’ - A Conference on the Future Role of the European Union Structural Funds to Advance Community Living for Older People and People with Disabilities’, is organised in association with the Irish Presidency of the European Council with the support of European Foundation Centre (EFC), Belgium and Fundación ONCE, Spain.
Professor Gerard Quinn, Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway, said: “Ireland has taken initial positive steps in the right direction with the ‘Ending Congregated Settings’ report and the National Positive Ageing Strategy. We have to make sure that our taxpayers’ money is not being used via the Structural Funds to achieve the opposite effect elsewhere in Europe.”
Professor Quinn continued: “Both disabled and older citizens have a common cause here. We owe it to our fellow disabled and older EU citizens across Europe to end bad practices and help generate real added-value put of diminishing EU funds. It is very important that your voice is heard loud and clear.”
The rejection of the conditionalities proposed by the European Commission for accessing and using the funds has particular legal implications as it probably exposes the EU to legal liability under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is the first UN human rights treaty to be ratified by the EU as such.
Professor Quinn added: “What are our citizens to think if the EU ratifies such a major international instrument and then keeps it at arms length where it matters most. We certainly cannot preach to others if we fail to ensure basic respect for the convention in how major EU financial instruments are crafted. The conditions proposed by the Commission or something with the same effect have to be restored to the Regulations to keep faith with Europe’s 80 million persons with disabilities.”
The conference will be opened by Minister of State Kathleen Lynch T.D., who has responsibilities both for older people and people with disabilities, and one of the sessions will be chaired by Minister of State Brian Hayes T.D.
The keynote address at the conference will be delivered by Professor Jerome Bickenbach on the unity of purpose between the disabled and older European citizens on community living and ageing in pace. It will be addressed by the European Commission (DG Justice and DG Regio), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, The EU Fundamental Rights Agency and high level representatives for European civil society (European Disability Forum) and Age Platform Europe.
Jan Jarab, Regional Representative for Europe of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who will be a participant in the conference, said: “The Office of the High Commissioner is committed to the promotion of community living and inclusion in society for older persons as well as for children in need of alternative care and persons with disabilities.”
Professor Quinn added: “We are proud of where Ireland has come from and its clear aspirations for the future. But the rights we take for granted should not be confined to us. Lets be both smart and ethical in how the EU spends our money. This conference will explore the need for these conditions and whether or how they can be achieved as the drafting of the new regulations reach a climax in early summer 2013.”
All are welcome and no prior knowledge of the Structural Funds is assumed or required. More information on the conference is available at http://www.nuigalway.ie/cdlp/events/community_living_for_all.html and individuals can register at www.conference.ie.