In May 2014, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly opened an own-initiative inquiry into respect for fundamental rights in the EU’s Cohesion Policy. ENIL-ECCL have submitted a response to the inquiry, setting out a number of outstanding concerns in relation to how EU funding is used in the Member States and the role of the European Commission.
The focus of the Ombudsman’s inquiry is the European Commission’s role in ensuring that EU funding is used in compliance with the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights. In this respect, the Ombudsman asked the Commission to respond to a number of questions, in order to establish what mechanisms are in place to ensure Member States’ compliance with the rights set out in the Charter. The Commission’s response was submitted in October last year.
Since the end of 2006, ENIL-ECCL have advocated for Structural Funds to be used to support the development of community-based services, rather than perpetuate the segregation and isolation of disabled people in institutional care. In two reports, published in 2010 and 2013, we highlighted a number of examples from Central and Eastern Europe where EU funding was used to renovate or build new institutions for disabled people. For this reason, we have welcomed the Ombudsman’s inquiry and have responded to the targeted consultation of third parties.
ENIL-ECCL’s response, which incorporates comments from the Open Society Foundations – Mental Health Initiative, focuses on the outstanding concerns in relation to the use of Structural Funds. These relate to the Commission’s ability to identify whether the measures for the shift from institutional care to community-based services are adequate, its capacity to assess Member States’ compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and inadequate restrictions on the investment into institutional care. Finally, we have raised several concerns in relation to the monitoring system and the complaints mechanism, which include the lack of capacity by individuals and the civil society to intervene in cases where Structural Funds’ use does not comply with the Charter and the CRPD.
All the contributions will be forwarded by the Ombudsman to the Commission and published on her website. ENIL-ECCL expect that the inquiry, once finalised, will lead to measures being taken by the Commission to develop a more robust system for ensuring that, in projects funded by the EU, fundamental rights of disabled people are respected.
The ENIL-ECCL Response can be downloaded here.
The European Coalition for Community Living (ECCL) is an initiative of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) advocating for the development of community-based alternatives to institutional care. For more information, please see: www.community-living.info.