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27 May 2013

Athens, 26 May 2013 /// On 25-26 May 2013, EDF’s Annual General Assembly took place in Athens, Greece, gathering hundreds of leaders from its member organisations all around Europe. This year’s meeting focused on the situation of persons with disabilities and the crisis, as well as the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) at National and EU level. It was also marked by the renewal of EDF’s governing bodies and the re-election of Yannis Vardakastanis as EDF President.

Shuaib Chalklen, UN Special Rapporteur on Disability, Klaus Lachwitz representing the International Disability Alliance (IDA), Nawaf Kabbara, President of the Arab Organization of Disabled People, Efi Bekou, General Secretary of Welfare - Ministry of Labour, Social Security & Welfare, and Foteini Zafeiropoulou from the Greek National Confederation of Disabled People, opened the meeting, which was mostly focused on:

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD): developments on its implementation at European and national level; this session included the presentation of national cases on the implementation of article 33 on ‘National implementation and monitoring’ and reporting to the UN Committee. The UN Special rapporteur also presented the work he is doing to promote the CRPD and the situation in Africa;
  • The situation of persons with disabilities in Europe and the crisis, presented by representatives of EDF’s member organisations in countries which are under revision of the Troika lenders: Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal and Ireland. This session included the discussion and adoption of the final report of EDF’s observatory on the impact of the crisis and the EDF position on the Social Dimension of the European Monetary Union in view of the European summit in June 2013.



Participation of citizens is the essential base of democracy and part of sustainable development in society. During its Annual General Assembly, the disability movement adopted a position on the Social Dimension of the European Monetary Union calling the EU leaders for a strategic plan to restore growth and social inclusion for persons with disabilities to exit the crisis by:

- reviewing and developing new policy instruments paying particular attention to persons with disabilities, providing long term investments in social measures for participation and independent living, such as in housing, health, education, and employment

- carrying out investments on accessibility, including services infrastructures and built environment as an effective instrument for creating new jobs and boost the EU economic growth

- developing within National Reform Programmes concrete policy and legislative proposals to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in employment, education and to their full participation in the society as citizens on an equal basis with others.

- involving organisations of persons with disabilities in the process of developing the National Reform Programmes.

- issuing Country Specific Recommendations addressing the improvement of the situation for persons with disabilities.

- allocating sufficient funding to the current social and human rights challenges and ensure that the EU budget will not produce further barriers for persons with disabilities.



The elections of EDF’s governing bodies were marked by the re-election of Yannis Vardakastanis in the role of EDF President. Yannis Vardakastanis is being elected as EDF President since 1999. The new Executive Committee also consists of Gunta Anca from the Latvian National Council and Donata Vivanti from Autism Europe, as Vice Presidents, Rodolfo Cattani from the European Blind Union, as Secretary, and Pat Clarke from Disability Federation Ireland as Treasurer.

“Throughout all these years, the European disability movement has enjoyed great achievements which have opened the way towards a better era for persons with disabilities. Nowadays, in times of crisis, the challenge is bigger than ever. Even when the crisis is over, the repercussions of the crisis will still be with us for many years. The EU has to guarantee that the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities are protected and a social way out of the crisis is found. The crisis should not take away the achievements we have made throughout these years. And the disability movement is here united and with one voice to remind the EU leaders that nothing can be decided about us without us”, stressed EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis.


Lila Sylviti | EDF Communications officer |


The European Disability Forum is the European umbrella organisation representing the interests of 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe. The mission of EDF is to ensure persons with disabilities full access fundamental and human rights through their active involvement in policy development and implementation in Europe. EDF is a member of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and it is currently chairing its governing body.