Further Advance for a European Disability Card

Health - December 14, 2023

Following to a previous article in September, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament has requested the internal Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies for an analysis of the proposed directive on the so-called European Disability Card.

Next to strengths and opportunities, the analysis, published in November, recognises there are shortcomings.

The Card aims to allow for a “limited portability” of the nationally recognised disability status.  In practice, EU citizens that hold the Card as issued by a Member State can be recognised by service providers in another Member State -the host Member State- on an equal basis with persons with disabilities who are resident in that State.

That entails already a rather broad portability of the nationally recognised disability status.  First of all, service providers can be public or private; in the first case, it amounts to a certain portability of social security (medicare) benefits.

Second, if that portability in favour of EU citizens is extended to other citizens residing in a EU Member State, the scope will even be enlarged on a much wider scale.

Third, the host Member State is obliged to grant rights based on residence in that Member State, surely a line-up of obligations much wider than those granted to nationals of the Member State.

And fourth, the portability is granted even when the travelling citizens are not eligible for the Card if they were assessed in the host Member State.

The Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies in the European Parliament might as well call that “limited” portability.  Based on facts, we do not; particularly if one bears in mind that benefits extend to families, and we know how certain categories of immigrants typically abuse of such opportunities.

On the other hand, the proposal does not merge the European Disability Card and the European Parking Card, which means that users need to handle two cards instead of one.  This does not seem very efficient.

An interesting limitation on the scope of the Card refers to time.  It should only be used for “short stays”, perhaps three months.  But this is rather unclear, as a left-wing tendency in the Parliament might wish to enlarge this time span massively.

A further challenge to be observed corresponds to the fact that the Card might be deployed in digital format, with the suspicions that some ECR members rightly raised during the Covid-19 crisis.  The digital means, in the hands of a cryptocratic Commission as that headed by Mrs. Von der Leyen, are not of a reduced nature.

The proposal, in fact, has no legal basis.  The Commission has proposed four, but taken one by one they reveal not to be very serious.  Article 53(1) TFEU refers to diplomas of the self-employed, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Card.  Article 62 TFUE previews the free movement of services within the EU, but the Card proposal provides for the free movement of persons, not services.  Article 91 TFEU corresponds to a common transport policy; perhaps this could apply to a European Parking Card, but surely not to a Disability Card, which has nothing to do with transport policy.  Finally, Article 21(2) TFEU provides for EU citizens to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States; though again this is already achieved with our national identity cards, without a need for a European Disability Card beyond a Parking Card.

It seems reasonable and appropriate to protect people with disabilities.  However, does the EU need to do it or would it not be more responsible for Member States to compete against each other in their respective excellence and ambition?  That is one of the advantages of the subsidiarity principle and not a lesser one.

Image:  Nicolas Schmit (Tageblatt.lu)