EU Elections 2014: it’s time to vote for inclusion

23 May 2014

EU elections 2014. We bote for inclusion.The European elections have started. The first polling stations opened yesterday in a couple of EU Member States and the rest of Europe will vote in an election that that will spread until Sunday evening. Europeans are called to elect their 751 Members of the European Parliament. The European Disability Forum (EDF) calls on European citizens with disabilities to go out and cast their ballot. Participation in political life is at the heart of democracy.

In all EU member States, EDF, its members and the whole disability movement worked tirelessly to engage with candidates and political parties to call on their strong commitments to ensure that all 80 million European citizens with disabilities can fully enjoy their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, but also to ensure that the elections and the campaign material are accessible – a prerequisite for citizens with disabilities to be able to vote. The European Parliament has traditionally been a strong ally in implementing the human rights of persons with disabilities. EDF welcomes all commitments made by national candidates and political parties.

The 2014 elections are particularly important as their outcome will determine for the first time who becomes president of the European Commission. Top candidates from the different political forces have run pan-European campaigns. For EDF, it was equally important to hear the visions of the candidates for Commission President regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. We welcome the series of commitments made to us by the PES common candidate Martin Schulz, who said that ‘fighting all forms of discrimination and exclusion, including for disabled people, [would] be an absolute priority of [his] Commission'. We also welcome the commitments received from the Green candidate Ska Keller, who underlined that: 'i nternationally recognized human rights have to get a legal base in the EU and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) has to be implemented in all laws on EU-level'. Finally, we welcome the support to the general antidiscrimination directive heard during the last TV ‘presidential debate’ on 15 May, which reflects one of the key priorities contained in EDF Manifesto on the European elections.

However, EDF regrets that overall most debates - including the televised ‘presidential debates’ - ignored by and large disability issues and even non-discrimination and fundamental rights issues at large, in spite of the deteriorating situation of fundamental rights in Europe and the threat posed by the rise of extreme-rights movements. EDF calls on the new political leadership of the Commission, which will be established over the coming months, to make a strong commitment to implement the rights of persons with disabilities as outlined in EDF manifesto.

Finally, the failure by all televised presidential debates, with the exception of the 9 May debate in Florence, to include sign language interpretation or subtitling, will have negative consequences on persons with disabilities’ election turnout. The lack of accessibility excluded many persons with disabilities from this unique opportunity to find out more about the top candidates and make an informed choice.

Find more about EDF's campaign on the EU elections!


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