A Europe of hope and opportunities must be accessible to all 


Addressing the 5th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities, the President of the European Parliament said that everyone must have the opportunity to get involved in our European project. "For many, accessibility is still the exception rather than the norm. Every minor action can send a major message."

Dear Yannis, 
Dear Commissioner,
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
Dear Colleagues,
Dear participants,

I am very proud to open this 5th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities here in this hemicycle. 

Yannis recalled our first meeting in my newly then elected capacity as President of the European Parliament. I could think of nothing better than to open this hemicycle to all of you activists from all over Europe and beyond, to be here together to discuss the challenges and the vision that we all have, and that we can commit to together.

This European Parliament is a place of inclusion of all in European society.

You are all most welcome here.

I would like to extend a particular warm welcome to the Ukrainian delegation here with us. The challenges that you overcome to be amongst us are second-to-none. We support your inclusion in Europe all the way.

For most, accessibility is a given. But this 5th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities reminds Europe and the world that for many, accessibility is still the exception rather than the norm. 

One in five Europeans lives with a disability. This is why platforms like the European Disability Forum are crucial to raise awareness of the issues we, in Europe, still need to work on for more fairness. Many struggle for access and inclusion. Too many must go to great lengths for equal rights.

The European Union's motto "United in Diversity" means that everyone must have the opportunity to get involved in our European project. 

A Europe of hope and opportunities must be accessible to all. 

Equal rights must be actual-and-real. Not just nominal, and on paper. 

We must actively include all persons with disabilities in our decision-making. For this we must remove existing barriers. We must continuously work to guarantee inclusion and equality in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  

And this Parliament is working on that. 

In this Parliament, we believe that persons with disabilities have the right to live independently and receive appropriate community-based services. We will keep delivering on this. 

We also want to urgently abolish remaining administrative restrictions that hinder the rights of persons with disabilities. 

In this spirit, we are eagerly awaiting the Commission’s proposal this year on an EU-wide European Disability Card. It is high time for mutual recognition of a disability status between Member States. Why are we still not in a situation where we have this?

Today’s event is an opportunity to discuss the experience of the eight countries that already use the European Disability Card on a voluntary basis and learn from each other about associated benefits in areas such as culture, sport and transport. We must make it easier for persons with disabilities to embrace, like all Europeans, Schengen-like freedom of movement in a border-free European Union.

Ahead of the 2024 European elections, this Parliament has insisted that Member States take action to replace substituted voting with supported voting across the EU. Because respecting the autonomy of those concerned is important for real inclusion.

So I encourage you to push for this on a national level, to vote in the next EU elections. I encourage you to exercise your democratic right - an equal right given to all EU citizens. I also encourage perhaps some of you to run as candidates in the European elections.

Take part in shaping Europe’s future. Give the next European Parliament a mandate to perform its duties in your interests too.

Our institution works hard, every day, to lead by example, to make inclusion a standard in European democracy. Lots of things left to do, not only in terms of physical accessibility, but also accessibility of persons with disabilities to be able to do all jobs in this European Parliament. This is what we are committed to and what we are implementing. And I want to see a Parliament that does more.

Even minor action can send a major message. 

So much is possible, when we set our minds to change and improve.

Having a disability shall not hold anyone back anywhere in Europe.

Thank you very much for your tireless work towards a more inclusive Europe.  

Thank you Yannis and your colleagues for doing so much in terms of pushing forward and advancing, and holding us to account, and reminding us when we need to do better. Continue to do that.

I wish you all, a day of further inclusion and thoughtful exchanges.