This morning, in Cambridge, I went to the Eastern Region Green Party European elections campaign launch, attended by four of the Eastern Region Green Party candidates, namely Rupert Read, Marc Schiemann, Mark Ereira-Guyer, and Fiona Radic, and also Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. I am pleased to say it has gone well, with only a month to go before the polling day of European elections-22 May 2014.
One unfortunate thing I noticed is that there has not been much talk of disability rights, even amidst the Federation of Young European Greens manifesto (which does not mention it at all)- Young Greens in many nations are the most diverse on average in terms of political parties.
Several important reports compiled since the 2008 global financial crisis show that people with disabilities in European Union nations, especially those hard hit by the troika (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) are at much higher risk of poverty than an average EU citizen, especially as many nations are privatising or outsourcing disability services, or have already done so with predictably disastrous results. Unemployment rates in many European nations are high, but for people with disabilities it is bleaker still- a 2012 report on Greece and disability rights by the European Foundation Centre (EFC) for example, showed a 68% unemployment rate for Greeks with disabilities. In many other nations the unemployment rate amongst people with significant disabilities exceeds 50%, as it does in the UK. Disability allowances and care budgets have fallen sharply, and inclusion of people with disabilities in Ireland is going backwards, especially in education. Also, in Spain ,therapy and training services for people with disabilities and/or mental health problems have had significant funding cuts, and supported employment for people with disabilities has dropped significantly in the last five years, even before Mariano Rajoy's neoconservative regime took power. These are just a few examples of the bleak future millions of people with disabilities are facing across the European Union.
The threatened TTIP will worsen the situation for people with disabilities-what if firms like Capita start using the TTIP's provisions for helping roll out tests similar to the Work Capability Assessment across Europe? This could effectively result in a Europe-wide genocide of people with disabilities and/or mental health problems (even if Capita and co do not intend this to happen) on a scale far, far worse than the Nazis' infamous 'Action T4' of the 1930s and 1940s.
I therefore believe, now more than ever, that we Greens in Britain and elsewhere must do what we can to get out the vote of people with disabilities and/or mental health issues, as our policies amongst major European groups are the ones that can help people with disabilities most, and we, the Green Party, should be the ones making sure the voices of vulnerable people in society are heard loud and clear, and thus we can appeal particularly to these voters. As a Young Green with a disability, I will be proud to help in these endeavours and help people with disablities stand up for their rights in Europe.