Alphabetical index
This page is available in 5 languages

We are migrating the content of this website during the first semester of 2014 into the new EUR-Lex web-portal. We apologise if some content is out of date before the migration. We will publish all updates and corrections in the new version of the portal.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Equal treatment irrespective of racial or ethnic origin

The objective of this legislation is to combat discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin. Therefore this Directive lays down minimum requirements for implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons in the European Union (EU). By discouraging discrimination, it should help to increase participation in economic and social life and reduce social exclusion.


Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin.


This Directive is based on the principle of equal treatment between persons. It forbids all direct * or indirect * discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, as well as harassment * and any behaviour which makes one person discriminate against another person.

The Directive applies to all persons and to all sectors of activity, regarding:

  • access to employment and to unpaid activities, specifically during recruitment;
  • working conditions, including concerning hierarchical promotion, pay and dismissals;
  • access to vocational training;
  • involvement in workers’ or employers’ organisations, and in any professional organisation;
  • access to social protection and to health care;
  • education;
  • social advantages, access to goods and services, particularly housing.

The Directive does not cover difference of treatment based on nationality, or the conditions of entry and residence for citizens from third countries in the European Union (EU).

Derogations from the principle of equal treatment

In the field of employment, a derogation may be authorised where race or ethnic origin constitutes a fundamental professional requirement. This derogation must be justifiable by the nature of the activity and the conditions under which it is exercised. It must be legitimate and proportionate.

Lastly, the directive does not oppose positive action, namely national measures aimed at preventing or compensating for disadvantages connected with race or ethnic origin.

Remedies and enforcement

Anyone who believes they are a victim of a failure to comply with the principle of equal treatment must be able to access legal and/or administrative procedures, even if the relationship in question has ended. Associations or other interested legal persons may also undertake judicial proceedings either on behalf of or in support of the complainant.

The burden of proof falls on the party accused, who must prove that the principle of equal treatment has not been infringed. The complainant must be protected against any adverse treatment or adverse consequence as a reaction to the proceedings.

Social dialogue and civil dialogue

The social partners ensure the promotion of equal treatment, specifically by monitoring practices in the workplace, producing codes of conducts and concluding collective agreements. More generally, the Directive encourages the conclusion of agreements establishing non-discrimination rules in the fields which fall within the scope of collective bargaining.

Civil dialogue with the civil society organisations concerned is also encouraged.

Bodies for the promotion of the principle

Each Member Sates must establish at least one body dedicated to combating discrimination, in particular responsible for helping victims and conducting independent studies.


This Directive is supplemented by the provisions on equal treatment in employment and occupation

The Treaty of Lisbon (Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) provides the EU with a legal basis to combat all forms of discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Key terms
  • Direct discrimination: decimation caused where one person is treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable.
  • Indirect discrimination: discrimination caused where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice is likely to put someone at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless it is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
  • Harassment: unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. The concept of harassment may be defined in accordance with the national laws and practice of the Member States.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2000/43/EC



OJ L 180 of 19.7.2000


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 30 October 2006 – The application of Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin [COM(2006) 643 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 05.10.2011
Legal notice | About this site | Search | Contact | Top