One of the top priorities of the disability movement, the European Disability Card will enable people with disabilities to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of movement in the EU on the same footing as people without disabilities.

The EESC has welcomed the initiative to introduce a European Disability Card, which has been launched by the European Commission to help people with disabilities move and reside freely within the European Union.

In an opinion adopted at its plenary session in April, the EESC, however, warned that the success of the card will depend on mutual recognition of disability status between EU countries, which is currently not the case and which deprives persons with disabilities of support measures when travelling to other countries. This is a fundamental violation of their freedom of movement, which is a core EU value.

The rapporteur for the opinion, Ioannis Vardakastanis, said: "We now have first- and second-class European citizens, the first class being those who can move from one Member State to another for travel, work, or study, or to set up residence, and the second class being those who cannot. The European Disability Card will break down these barriers."

The EESC noted in the opinion that the European Disability Card had been a high priority of the disability movement and something that they had long called for. It recommended that the card be established through a regulation, as this is a more appropriate instrument that would ensure its consistent and universal application and avoid differences in implementation at national level.

Complementary measures should also be taken to ensure that transport, services and buildings are accessible to all, while the personal data contained in the card should be protected by the data protection regulations. In this way, the card will function as a European Disability Passport.

In the EESC's view, the card will compel Member States to improve current systems which are primarily based on a medical approach to disability and align them with models that abide by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

To ensure the success of the card, the EESC called for the full involvement of persons with disabilities and their organisations in all phases of its roll-out and during the monitoring process.

Another demand is for the physical separation of the EU Disability Card and EU Parking Card. This would make it easier for persons with disabilities to navigate transport systems and access public services. (ll)