Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The EU embraced the vision of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2010, when it concluded this Convention. Guided by it, it has since then, been working to ensure that all persons with disabilities enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms on equal basis with others.
Now, in 2020, the EU shares the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic with the other States Parties. This reinforced the need to pay particular attention to those who require most support, including persons with disabilities. It is in this light, that the EU shares its experience in implementing the UNCRPD and in addressing the needs of persons with disabilities.
A lot has been achieved in the last decade, when the European disability strategy 2010-2020 was the main policy tool at EU level to implement the UNCRPD.
In this period, the EU significantly advanced on disability related policies and legislation. Today, more than 140 EU legal acts contain disability related provisions. This is a major development in comparison to 2010, when only about 40 legal acts referred to such matters. Amongst others, the EU adopted the European Accessibility Act and the Web Accessibility Directive. The passengers’ rights in all modes of transport were strengthened. The Cross-Border Healthcare Directive allows for easier access for persons with disabilities to quality medical care across EU Member States. The EU Structural and Investment Funds include provisions prohibiting discrimination, including on the basis of disability and have been instrumental to finance the transition from institutions to community based living.
However, work remains to be done. In spite of this progress, persons with disabilities in the EU still face barriers. Gaps continue to persist between those with and without disabilities. There are about 87 million Europeans with some form of disability in the 27 EU Member States. They remain to be at higher poverty risks, face difficulties in accessing education and training, employment, social protection systems and health care. They also often struggle to take active part in political or cultural life. It is of great importance to combat violence against persons with disabilities, in particular violence against women and children with disabilities, in a systematic way, for example by addressing this issue in national legislations and collecting disaggregated data.
During the ten years of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, the EU went through important developments, while facing several global challenges. These challenges, such as the financial crisis and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, have tested the inclusiveness of our society, and have shown the need for more targeted, flexible, intersectional and operational policies, allowing for swift reactions. This has also been the case in respect to the challenges related to increased migration.
A comprehensive evaluation of the 2010-2020 Strategy was completed. A new ambitious strategy is under preparation. Extensive consultations with stakeholders are taking place, giving persons with disabilities a voice to present their recommendations for further EU action with their full, equal and meaningful participation.
Looking forward, the EU is going through major changes whilst gradually recovering from the Covid-19 crisis. Both the green and digital transitions and the impact of the pandemic are reshaping the way we live, work and interact. In this transformative phase, persons with disabilities cannot be left behind. The EU also continues to support its partner countries in their implementation of the CRPD. The Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, currently under preparation, will ensure that persons with disabilities benefit from these transitions on equal basis with others. It will show the commitment to full implementation of the UNCRPD for the 2021-2030 period, aiming at achieving the Union of Equality for all persons with disabilities.
 Council Decision on the conclusion by the EU of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities