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Virtual conference “Political participation in Europe – towards effective involvement of persons with disabilities”

December 16, 2020

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs put the issue of “Political participation in Europe – towards effective involvement of persons with disabilities” prominently on the agenda of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU during a virtual conference on 30 November. The host, State Secretary Dr. Schmachtenberg, discussed the general environment, opportunities and limits of the political participation of persons with disabilities with guests from the policy, academic and civil society communities.

State Secretary Dr. Rolf Schmachtenberg in conversation at the digital conference.

State Secretary Dr. Schmachtenberg summed up the conference as follows: “Today’s event was exciting, diverse and vibrant. It has become clear once again that persons with disabilities have a right to participation, especially to political participation. The opportunities for an inclusive society and political participation are interconnected. There are parallel developments at the national and European level that can be mutually reinforcing.”

The virtual conference consisted of two parts: First, experts provided a good general overview of the social, economic and legal situation of persons with disabilities and of the actions the European Union is taking in this area. This part was followed by a panel discussion that included representatives of national and European associations of persons with disabilities and the German Federal Government Commissioner for Matters relating to Persons with Disabilities in which they compared the analyses shared in the first part with the actual situation. Many viewers, who were able to ask the panellists questions, joined the debate.

The event illustrated how inclusion and participation in the labour market, education and policymaking are inextricably linked. Political participation is essential for an inclusive society. Transparent decision-making and sufficient resources are important prerequisites for an effective involvement of persons with disabilities. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the plans for a new EU Disability Strategy are important milestones in this regard.