Relentless struggle for the rights of persons with disabilities
13th December 2020, HARAVGI daily newspaper
Article by Giorgos Georgiou, AKEL MEP
On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we are once again hearing pompous statements, pledges being made and promises of complacency. So before the competent authorities return to their complacent usual routine, let us remind ourselves of some truths that do not befit anyone.
According to the European Statistical Office EUROSTAT, Cyprus ranks third from the bottom of the table on benefits allocated to persons with disabilities (PD’s) across the EU. The United Nations has made dozens of negative comments to Cyprus on the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At the same time as it has been proven that the Guaranteed Minimal Income cannot meet the individual needs of persons with disabilities, the insensitivity demonstrated by the state continues.
The government refuses to listen to the cries of despair of PD’s. It does not proceed to elaborate any separate legislation to provide support for disabled persons, which it has been promising to do so for seven years. At the same time, the government ruling forces are dismantling the welfare state and social infrastructures, handing them over to the private sector. They are also proceeding with the unacceptable separation of children with disabilities and cutting benefits from children with partial disabilities. All of this inevitably leads to the abuse of human rights and the impoverishment of PD’s.
As AKEL, together with the Confederal Group of the European United Left, we strive for the immediate and full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, through the elaboration of separate legislation that will be in line with the Convention and that will have as its starting point the needs every disability generates.
We are asserting comprehensive social protection and inclusion policies.
We are struggling so that everyone should have a quality life with dignity, without any discriminations.
We demand that it must be safeguarded that persons with disabilities are assessed objectively, based on their particular needs and not on the criteria of the Guaranteed Minimal Income.
Furthermore, we also stress the urgent need to recognize “rare disease” in legislation to facilitate treatment procedures, hoping to avoid any permanent disability.
We are fighting so that social policy is reshaped in order to create a real welfare state and for effective support and care structures to be provided for PD’s. To put an end, at long last, to the unbearable routine practice of prejudice experienced by PD’s at work, in schools and in every aspect of their lives.
Unfortunately, in many EU member states, including Cyprus as well, persons with disabilities are treated as second-class citizens and are the first victims of the austerity policies being imposed and of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing today. As Vice-President of the Inter-Parliamentary Disability Group of the European Parliament, together with the Bureau, we issued a statement emphasizing that our priority should be – on behalf of all member states – the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, as well as the strengthening of the new European Strategy on Disabilities (2020 – 2030), in order to offer real solutions to the problems plaguing persons with disabilities.
The pandemic has, unfortunately, confirmed that the EU is very far from implementing the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As an interdepartmental group on disabilities, we call on the European Parliament, Council and the Commission to adopt immediate decisions to ensure all the rights of the 100 million people with disabilities.
Finally, the Community budget must be made use of and public investment needs to address the serious shortcomings in public support structures, for a comprehensive strategy promoting the integration of people with disabilities into society, for quality health services for all.
The struggle of persons with disabilities is not easy. However, if you want to be called a human being, this is a struggle you have a duty to wage together with the people and win. For a humane world, without discriminations, inequality and pain.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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