EP and Council reach a deal on EU Disability and Parking cards

Following the proposal of the European Commission (EC) in 2023 for standardised European Disability and Parking cards, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the EU have brokered a tentative deal on a new directive. Formal adoption is still needed for entry into force, with a final vote expected in April.

Last September, the European Commission (EC) announced a legislative proposal aimed at ensuring better access to mobility for persons with disabilities. The EC’s proposal envisages a European Disability Card that would serve as proof of disability across the EU, as well a revision of the European Parking Card that would allow persons with disabilities to substitute their national parking cards for a common EU-wide parking card.

What is at stake?

At present, persons with disabilities face unique challenges when travelling in the EU. If their disability status is not recognised by the authorities in other Member States, they could lose access to certain special conditions and preferential treatment while travelling. These rights include free or reduced-fair parking, priority access, lower transport fees, and personal assistance.

Ensuring equal access: European Disability and Parking cards

In 2023, the EC proposed to introduce a standardised European Disability Card and upgrade the existing European Parking Card for persons with disabilities.

On 9 February 2024, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached a provisional deal on the Commission's proposal. If formally adopted by both institutions, the proposed directive would safeguard parking rights and access to services such as public transport, museums, sports centres, and amusement parks for persons with disabilities during short visits to other EU Member States.

Under the directive, both cards would be issued in digital as well as physical formats, depending on availability. While the European Disability is to be issued and renewed free of charge, Member States may charge administrative fees for issuing and renewing the European Parking Card.

To make both cards as widely accessible as possible, the proposed directive includes provisions demanding that Member States and the EC raise awareness of the cards. This would include the establishment of a central European website linked to national websites, where persons with disabilities could find information on how to obtain, use, and renew the cards, as well as information regarding preferential conditions.

Triumphs and setbacks

The European Disability Forum (EDF) has highlighted some of the achievements of the proposed directive, such as the inclusion of digital anti-fraud measures (e.g., QR codes), the use of Braille on physical cards, and the possibility to soon extend the benefits of both cards to to third-country nationals who reside in the EU.

Even so, the EDF has also highlighted key shortcomings in the directive. Among other things, the EDF argues, additional provisions are needed to ensure temporary access to disability support and allowance while undergoing “reassessment” processes (e.g., when persons with disabilities move to work and study abroad) and to secure EU funding for the deployment of the cards in all Member States.

The road ahead

Currently, the deal reached by the EP and the Council on the directive is tentative. For the EU Disability and Parking cards to be introduced, formal adoption by both institutions is still needed. Currently, plans have been set to reach a final vote on the agreed text during the April plenary session.

Assuming that the directive is adopted in April 2024, EU Member States will then be given a 42-month deadline to start rolling out the cards, including 30 months to transpose the legislation. In effect, this could delay EU-wide implementation of the directive to 2028, the EDF has warned.

Nonetheless, EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis remains hopeful that the directive will meet the mark, saying: “This is a momentous victory for the disability movement, that campaigned for [the EU Disability] Card for over a decade. We expect this Card to be well implemented and that it becomes a cornerstone for citizens with disabilities’ full inclusion in the European project.”

To find out more about the EU Disability and Parking cards, read the EP's original press release and the EDF's assessment of the agreement.