On Wednesday 4th December the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and MEP Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová, Chair of European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, brought together Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and disability support service providers from across Europe to engage on the issues of greatest importance to the sector and to commit to a stronger social agenda in Europe.
Hosted in the European Parliament, the event welcomed EASPD member organisations from over 15 EU countries and connected local expertise and experiences with key Members of the European Parliament to support the provision of high-quality support for all who need it.
As host, Ms Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová MEP (ECR), Chair of European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, welcomed participants and opened the event by emphasising the need for the European Union and its Member States to put words into actions, saying that: “if we want to be a European Union that leaves no one behind, we must do more than write it on paper, we must act.”
Mrs Ďuriš Nicholsonová was joined in welcoming participants by MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL), Vice President of the European Parliament responsible for Gender Equality and Diversity. Mr Papadimoulis spoke of the importance of providing the appropriate funding to support the rights and needs of those living in Europe, asserting: “if we want to have a stronger social agenda we need to do more and we can’t do more with less.”
The event began with a panel discussion in which MEPs Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová (ECR), Alex Agius Saliba (S&D), Atidzhe Alieva-Veli (Renew) Katrin Langensiepen (Greens) and Sandra Pereira (GUE/NGL) discussed the role of the European Parliament to fund inclusion and ensure the provision of high-quality support services to person with disabilities.
MEP Agius Saliba spoke of the negative impact increasing austerity measures has on support service providers across Europe highlighting that “insecurity of funding has an impact in the ability of support services to provide high quality support to those who need them.” Looking to the future, MEP Langensiepen spoke of the new opportunities for the European Union to become more inclusive and uphold the rights of all its citizens, including those with disabilities, with the Green New Deal.
Contributions from MEPs Stelios Kympouropoulos (EPP), Radan Kanev (EPP), Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP), Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou (EPP), Tatjana Ždanoka (Greens), Manuel Pizarro (S&D), and Dragoș Pîslaru (Renew) were also welcomed during the event as was their direct engagement with EASPD members from their represented countries.
Speaking from the event EASPD President James Crowe said, “I would like to thank those MEPs and EASPD members who took the time to be here today. Their presence shows their dedication to working towards a more inclusive Europe for all of those living with in it.” Reflecting on the importance of collaboration between those working at a grassroots level and European policy makers he added “The conversations that were had in this room today are a spark for change for this new European Parliament. I hope that we can continue to build on the cooperation that this event has started, connecting real life experience with the policy making process.”
Adding to the comments of Mr Crowe, EASPD Secretary General, Luk Zelderloo said “this is an important time for the European Parliament with the new Commission taking its place; the negotiations for a new EU budget underway; a new cycle of the European Semester just beginning and the need to establish a new disability strategy post 2020. EASPD and its members are ready to work with MEPs to support the delivery of high-quality disability services and the realisation of the UN CRPD.”