National Conference of Disabled People (NCDP) Greece and the European Disability Forum (EDF)
Ioannis Vardakastanis, Vice-President of the EESC's Group III, Diversity Europe, in his capacity as president of the European Disability Forum (EDF), has been extremely active in advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities and their families during the COVID-19 crisis.
- On 15 April, Mr Vardakastanis sent a letter to the presidents of the European Council, the Eurogroup, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, and all the Heads of State and Government of the European Union, as well as to all the Members of the European Parliament and the EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, proposing measures that should be taken by EU leaders with a view to planning a fully disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery, which will lead to a more inclusive Europe.
- On 29 April, he participated via video conference, along with Ms Dalli, EU Commissioners Nicolas Schmit and Stella Kyriakides and representatives of civil society organisations, in a high-level exchange on the impact of COVID-19 on European social services, convened and moderated by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Dubravka Šuica. He emphasised that "the measures that governments have adopted will lead to exclusion, isolation and marginalisation, exacerbating an already dramatic situation of poverty and social exclusion. Before the crisis, almost 30% of persons with disabilities were at risk of poverty. Who can say how many will live in poverty after the COVID-19 crisis?"
- On 30 April, Mr Vardakastanis was the opening speaker in an online meeting organised by the Bureau of the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament, entitled Impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on persons with disabilities, in which Ms Dalli also participated. In his opening remarks he stressed that "the current COVID-19 crisis has dramatically impacted persons with disabilities. Neglect and exclusion are putting people with disabilities in danger, something that is likely to be long-term. Many governments and authorities, including the EU institutions, have forgotten persons with disabilities when deciding on emergency measures and recovery plans".