Equality milestone as EU disability card set to become a reality

Council and EU parliament agree on Commission proposal for EU-wide recognition of the European Disability Card and European Parking Card, set to unlock the freedom of movement potential for millions of EU citizens


People with disabilities will soon have access to reserved parking spaces across all 27 EU member states, getting the same preferential treatment when accessing services like public transport, museums and parks, across the Union.

This agreement follows a deal brokered between the Council and MEPs on a proposal spearheaded by EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli.

Member States will now have two years to incorporate the provisions of the Directive into national law before it takes effect in three years’ time. 

The new directive is expected to unlock the freedom of movement potential of millions of people with disabilities across the continent. “No matter where in the EU one may be, the European Disability Card would ensure that whether a cardholder is in their country or any of the other EU countries, they will be entitled to the same special conditions and preferential treatment in accessing services,” Dalli told MaltaToday.

Since Malta has already participated in a pilot project involving eight EU member states, the concept of the Disability Card is already familiar in Malta. “What is new, therefore, is that it is now permanent, mandated by law, and applicable in all member states across the EU,” Dalli said. 

Nationalist MEP David Casa was the EPP’s negotiator on the EU Disability Card and the EU Parking Card. “This is a milestone in ensuring that those with disabilities can enjoy the freedom of movement that is guaranteed by EU law,” Casa said. “All of us are entitled to travel without hindrance, but in practice, those with special access requirements find additional hurdles and inadequate support that discriminates against them. This new directive will finally eliminate those challenges and bolster inclusion.”

The limited pilot programme run by the Commission will now become law across the continent, improving the quality of life for millions who will benefit tangibly from its introduction. “Let’s not give citizens the bare minimum and let’s not wait until the last possible moment to deliver beneficial rights for our citizens,” Casa said. “This is already an overdue change.”

Malta’s Commissioner for the Rights of Persons with Disability Rhoda Garland welcomed the new directive.

“The Directive will mean an expansion to cover all EU countries so that the services (such as free or subsidised public transport) and discounts provided by private companies (e.g. museum entry), which are available to persons with disability in one country, will also be available to holders of the EU Disability card who are visiting that country for short stays”.  

The directive in a nutshell

The harmonised European parking card will eliminate the problems currently faced by disabled travellers to other EU countries whose Blue Badge is different in appearance to the country they are visiting, which may result in parking fines.

People with disabilities can access the same special conditions, preferential treatment, and parking rights when visiting another member state. A standardized European Disability Card will be recognised throughout the EU. 

Presently, people with disabilities can still be denied access to the special conditions and preferential treatment they enjoy at home when visiting other member states. The European Disability Card will serve as recognised proof of disability throughout the EU.

Improvements to the current European Parking Card will allow persons with disabilities to access the same parking rights in any member state and will include enhanced security features to prevent forgery and fraud. 

Crucially, the new directive will empower people with disabilities and their representatives to take legal action under national law when their rights established by the directive are infringed.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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