The general principle of equal opportunities contains two elements: one is equal treatment between persons, and the other is equality for men and women. It is intended to apply to all fields, particularly professional life, education, access to health care, goods and services.
The recognition of the principle of equality forms part of the objectives of the European Union (EU), and the principle of non-discrimination, which is closely linked thereto, has been reinforced by the Treaties of Amsterdam and Lisbon. The Community can thus take all necessary measures to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or convictions, disability, age or sexual orientation. It is assisted in its action by the Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women.
Adopted in December 2000 and incorporated into the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union includes a chapter entitled "Equality" which sets out the principles of non-discrimination, equality between men and women, and cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. It also covers the rights of the child, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
The European legal framework is supplemented by a series of measures aimed at promoting equality such as the integration of non-discrimination in all Community policies, positive action, awareness-raising and training and the promotion of the inclusion of Roma.