The Opening Doors campaign welcomes the European Ombudsman’s eight proposals to the European Commission to avoid fundamental rights violation in the spending of “European Structural and Investment Funds” (ESIF) by Member States.
The proposals suggest an increased monitoring of Members States, higher collaboration between the European Commission and Civil Society Organisations, investing in training and capacity building.
Among the fundamental rights issues highlighted, the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly mentioned EU funds spent “to build institutions for people with disabilities instead of community-based living”.
Our Recent Assessment
Deinstitutionalisation of children – meaning the process of replacing institutions with a range of quality care alternatives and measures supporting families – is an ex-ante conditionality on the use of ESIF funds which has not been respected everywhere; as reported in our recent assessment of how EU Member States have used ESIF for strengthening families and ending institutional care so far. In the report, the Opening Doors National Coordinator in Poland raised concerns about the ambiguity of the Polish legislation, which could leave open the possibility to invest in forms of institutional care.
The assessment has also emphasized issues in other countries: according to the National Coordinator in Greece, there is no specific budget allocation for deinstitutionalisation (DI); in Estonia there is no funding foreseen for institutional care, however a lack of investment into quality care and re-training of carers working with children was reported.
The way forward
For the Opening Doors campaign, the proposals issued today by the EU Ombudsman are a good way forward: we read in there suggestions like an “online platform where civil society can report fund abuses and violations of the EU Charter of fundamental rights”; a more active involvement of the Commission to avoid fundamental rights violations “by focusing training and capacity building efforts on Member States with a less positive track record in this area”; and “sanctions to be applied when Member States fail to fulfil their obligations”.
We call on the European Commission to follow up on the EU Ombudsman’s proposals and adopt initiatives to ensure that public funds are spent to reduce poverty and tackle social exclusion, particularly in rural and disadvantaged areas, and prevent any use of ESIF funds which is not in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.