Priority entry, mobility aid or personal assistance at cultural and sport events are not granted for people with disabilities moving around the countries of the European Union. Different rules and different disability cards exist, and these prevent people from receiving the support they need. The European Commission has therefore proposed to introduce a disability card that would be recognised across the EU.
The card would grant special treatment in transport, culture and sport events in other EU member states at the same conditions as citizens of the country visited.
Lack of recognition
One in four people in the European Union, about 87 million, have some form of disability. At present, there is no mutual recognition of disability status across EU member states. The definition of disability, the recognition of such status and the provision of related benefits are decided at national level.
Despite having the right to move freely within the EU, the Commission considers that national differences in disability cards and benefits discourage or prevent these people from travelling across borders.
The European disability card seeks to overcome such difficulties. Under the Commission proposal, the card would be issued by national authorities in addition to their own cards and would be available both in digital and physical format.
The card will ensure that the holder can benefit from reduced fees, free and priority entry, personal assistance, support services such as braille and audio guides, and mobility aid in other member states in the same way as citizens of those countries. Each country will continue to make its own rules and establish its own benefits, but these will apply to all European disability card holders.
“The proposal is an extra push to ensure freedom of movement for all… Disability rights should transcend national border,” said Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli at a press conference.
The card, however, will not be used for issues related to employment, social security or social assistance benefits.
A pilot project in eight countries
Eight EU countries – Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Romania and Slovenia – have already tested the new disability card.
As part of a pilot project that run between 2016 and 2018, they voluntarily recognised their disability cards based on a single template associated to a number of benefits in the areas of culture, leisure, sport and transport.
As a result of the project, the Belgian government decided that from 1st January 2024 eligible persons will automatically be issue
European parking card
In parallel, the Commission also proposed to introduce a binding common format for the European parking card. This will allow people with disabilities to have the same parking rights across the EU. Again, national differences currently undermine the exercise of these rights.
In this case, EU member states will be required to replace previous parking cards with the new one, available both in physical and digital versions. The new card will be recognised across the EU.
Not for employment
Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, an umbrella organisation representing disability groups in Brussels, welcomed the proposals. “The European disability card will ease the daily lives of persons with disabilities visiting another country and strengthen our sense of European citizenship,” he said.
He however called on the European Parliament to ensure the card can also be used to “facilitate our rights to live and work anywhere in the EU, as other citizens have”.
“Having to have your disability ‘re-assessed’ when moving abroad puts an undue burden on persons with disabilities, not to mention that it is an affront to our dignity. Our disability does not disappear when we cross borders,” he added.
In the same spirit, there should be equal recognition of benefits for people with disabilities participating in programmes such as Erasmus+, the European Disability Forum said in a statement.
The Commission proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and Council. Once adopted, EU countries should have 18 months to incorporate the new rules into national law and will start issuing the new cards one year later.
Claudia Delpero, Europe Street News © all rights reserved
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