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EU ratification of UN convention is ‘major landmark’

Disabled campaigners say the European Union’s (EU) ratification of the UN disability convention will provide a huge boost to the lives of 80 million disabled people across its 27 member states.

Two days before Christmas, the EU became the first regional, inter-governmental body to sign up to an international human rights treaty when it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Belgium, which currently holds the EU presidency, had made ratifying the convention a priority.

The European Disability Forum (EDF), which had pushed for the EU to ratify the convention by the end of 2010, said it was a “significant landmark” and a “major policy shift toward enforcing human rights for all Europeans and putting disability on top of the human rights agenda”.

EDF said that all EU institutions would now have to “endorse the values” of the convention in their policies, while ratification should also lead to improved accessibility in the EU’s buildings, and its employment and communications policies.

Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF’s president, said: “The European Union has not only achieved a major step in its history, but it is also sending a positive signal to its member states that haven’t ratified the convention yet: it is now time to commit to the rights of persons with disabilities.”

There are still 11 EU member states that have not individually ratified the convention.

EDF said it was calling on the EU to ensure that responsibility for coordinating implementation of the convention was given to the European Commission’s secretary general, to ensure the treaty was “mainstreamed” throughout the work of the commission, the European Parliament and other EU institutions.

It also called for the EU to ensure that Europe’s disabled people’s organisations were involved in monitoring implementation.

News provided by John Pring at