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Stronger cooperation is needed to support Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership support services

EASPD’s webinar of 17th June addressed the needs of disability services in non-EU Member States. The COVID-19 pandemic has had detrimental effects on non-EU member States, particularly in the Balkans and in the countries of the Eastern Partnership, where the traditionally weaker social care systems have been put under threat. Service providers in the disability field from Armenia, Albania and North Macedonia expressed their concerns on the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis on their support systems both during the emergency phase as well as for the recovery post COVID-19.
 
The COVID-19 crisis has a huge impact in the worldwide. While the EU has launched its own programmes for the EU Member States, its solidarity also reaches the Western Balkans region and the Eastern Partnership countries through several measures. These measure include support to the Western Balkans to tackle COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery, where the EU has mobilised a package of over EUR 3.3 billion to the benefit of Western Balkans citizens and the Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme, which starts with EUR 80 million for immediate needs and can go up to EUR 883 million for short and medium term to support the social and economic recovery of the region.
 
EASPD’s webinar addressed the most urgent needs for the above regions and highlighted the dangers for support systems that are often running their operations under precarious financial conditions. The webinar also addressed the need to ensure that the available EU funding opportunities are accessible for service providers for persons with disabilities to continue providing support for those in need.

The sudden stop in funding together with the lack of IT resources has led to many services being put on hold with a concrete risk for many to not restart if quick solutions are not put in place.
 
Eglatina Likaj from “Help the Life Association” of Albania asserted there is a need for national authorities to review their social priorities in light of the COVID-19 crisis, redressing the focus on persons with disabilities and their services at the heart of the recovery.
 
In Armenia, the major concerns regard the viability of NGOs through good health conditions and capacity building competences as reported by Susanna Tadevosyan from “Bridge of Hope”. The crisis must lead to a careful assessment of short, medium and long-term consequences on the programming and delivering capacity of NGOs with the need to anticipate mitigating actions.
 
Vasilka Dimoska from “PORAKA” in North Macedonia, also highlighted that the pandemic has dramatically put on hold long sought reforms as that on deinstitutionalisation with the concrete risk to discard all positive results achieved so far.
 
The European Commission joined the panel represented by Vassilis Maragos, Head of Unit on Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus & Eastern Partnership from the Directorate General on European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations, who highlighted the importance of working together with EU member states, European financial institutions and key international financial institutions to provide coherent responses and alleviate the economic and social impact of the pandemic and expressed availability to reinforce the cooperation with NGOs.
 
Concluding the webinar, Akos Pordan from Hand in Hand Foundation in Hungary, reported on the crucial  Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) play in the social welfare systems and therefore economic development and social resilience of neighbourhood countries, in particular in support of more vulnerable groups. Yet, their sustainability and developmentare often at risk due to insufficient support from public authorities; the EU can tap on this issues continuing to play an active role in supporting the development of CSOs and their dialogue with public authorities. Moreover, the EU must also ensure that NGOs and CSOs are not excluded from the measures implemented by the national government.

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Note to editors

The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organization, established in 1996, and currently representing over 17,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.
 

For more information please contact:

Rachel Vaughan
EASPD Communications Officer
+32 2 233  77 20
Rachel.Vaughan@easpd.eu
www.easpd.eu