European Summit on disabilities

Highest level European leaders discussed European disability policy today in Brussels, in the Commission's main building. Among the distinguished participants we found Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament; Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and Ádám Kósa single sign language user MEP. Civil society on the summit has been represented by the European Disability Forum.

EPP Group MEP Ádám Kósa, President of the EP's Disability Intergroup presented the European Parliament's position based on his Report on Mobility and Inclusion of People with Disabilities. Kósa reminded the participants that the European Accessibility Act, currently being planned by the Commission should include the report's main recommendations adopted in October 2011.

MEP Kósa highlighted that special efforts must be made to increase the employment level of people with disability and underlined that the new EU-level proposal must also target this goal. He explained the importance of promoting inclusive workplace practices and pointed out that substantial progress must be achieved to make new services and infrastructure contributed by Structural Funds' projects more accessible and barrier-free for the people with disabilities. "Inclusive education must certainly be promoted by all means in order to ensure the competitiveness of people with disabilities in the labour market, too" – he added.

The Hungarian MEP called on the Commission to pay more attention to the profitability and communication of accessibility-related investments. He underlined the need of a more substantial cooperation with people with disabilities as well as with the European Parliament in order to find solution for European-level challenges faced by the people concerned. The aim is clear and unambiguous: people living with disabilities also want to become effective tax-payers especially in an ageing and sustainable European society.

MEP Kósa finally urged the participants to organise a joint Disability Parliament sitting next year in the European Parliament's building, involving people with disabilities, with representatives of the European Council and the European Commission and with the aim of speeding up and enhancing the legitimacy of legislation.

Presidents of the EU institutions confirmed that the European Union must be attentive to the situation of people with disabilities. "All material and immaterial barriers to their full participation in society must be removed. The inclusion of people with disabilities would also provide an indispensable contribution to the near future needs of the European labour market as a result of the retiring millions of the baby-boom generation", highlighted President Buzek in his closing remarks. "The European Parliament is firmly committed to safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities, as is reflected by their inclusion in all relevant legislation and staff regulations and, last but not least, by the Parliament as a workplace itself", he added. Finally, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council stressed: "Even in the economic crisis our goals should remain accessibility and equal opportunities in a real sense, so that full participation of persons with disabilities becomes a reality. It is a matter of civilisation, of defending our common values. In Europe, society means everyone and a modern society must reflect all its members."