A joint conference of the European Disability Forum, the European Network for Independent Living and the Center for Independent Living in Sofia “Investments Independent Living” was held on 8th of June in Sofia.
Representatives of the Independent Living Movement from different countries as well as from different institutions were present at the conference – European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy at the European Commission, European Network for Independent Living, European Disability Forum, Center for Inclusive Education. Former Ombudsman of Sweden, representatives of the European Social Fund and Cohesion Policy, Directorate-General for Employment at the EC, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office for Europe, the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional Care to Support community (EEG). From Bulgaria, the conference was honored by the Minister of Labor and Social Policy, Mr. Bisser Petkov, as well as by representatives of the ASA and the ADP.
The conference quickly became a significant forum for the idea of reforms in Bulgarian social policies, necessitated not only by the historical changes that have taken place in Europe and the world lately, but also by the extremely difficult situation of the disabled Bulgarians, imposed by archaic legislation, which is in complete contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons. Minister Petkov also spoke in this direction, stating the following: “The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) has taken concrete actions to reform policies for the integration of the disabled people. With the view to the need for a broad public debate and consensus on key issues, an inter-ministerial working group with the involvement of all interested institutions and a wide range of non-governmental organizations is currently drafting a new Disabled Persons Act, in accordance with the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons.”
Apart from Minister Petkov, to whom we are extremely grateful for his respect for the conference, we had the pleasure to hear and see interesting presentations on how things are happening in different EU countries, for some good practices and examples, even from Bulgaria.
We can state with optimism and pleasure that after the interesting and fruitful event we were left with the hope that changes in Bulgaria could be possible, but we still have a lot a work to do, with the inherent zeal and desire of ours.