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Dear Ambassador Sourani (Eleni),
The reason we are here today is to raise wide awareness about the rights of people with disabilities, and in particular deaf children and their right to proper education.
Every day we witness discrimination, structural barriers and various forms of exclusion of vulnerable groups from enjoying their fundamental rights. Barriers and limitations range from physical accessibility, including public buildings, to access to information, education, employment and services;
Among the most severe form of marginalization and discrimination is the one experienced by people, and particularly children, with hearing impairments, starting from the right to education
Due to the absence of specialised sign language teachers, too many deaf children are deprived of the very right to communicate with the outside world and even sometimes with their family. There is little access to knowledge since they cannot go to school and cannot learn how to read and how to write. They are completely and sadly excluded from society.
We cannot remain indifferent to this.
There is an urgent need for public service provisions, including equipping education system with tools and staff to increase levels of education. The cycle of marginalization, which in the long run becomes unemployment and poverty, needs to be broken.
The commitment by the authorities to increase resources for the protection of the rights of children and for people with disabilities would be a strong signal. It would also be an important and encouraging step in the frame of the EU accession agenda.
The European Union Delegation will increasingly focus on social issues. In the near future we will address inclusion and social protection of the most vulnerable ones, including deaf community.
With the adoption of the Commission Strategy for the Western Balkans in February 2018, the EU has committed to increase efforts in the social sector, including through investments in education and health to support social inclusion. This will translate into new funding opportunities through our IPA 2019 programme. Our intention is to dedicate resources to improve access to services, employment and education, also for deaf people.
We will do so by strengthening the collaboration with governments and Civil Society. The role of the civil society fundamental In particular I would like take the occasion to applaud the work and dedication of Florjan and the Albanian National Association of the Deaf.
They need to be praised for their work, especially as too often they are the only interlocutor for vulnerable people. It is good that CSOs provide services on behalf or in substitution of the state, but this needs to be the result of a concerted sharing of responsibilities, not as a result of absence of the state.
Now I have the pleasure to leave the floor to Ambassador Sourani (Eleni) with whom I am very happy to have co-organised this event.