Fight against racism and xenophobia
The first key measure in the fight against racism was the resolution adopted by the Council and the representatives of the Member States in July 1996, declaring 1997 to be the "European Year against Racism".
The Amsterdam Treaty (1999) provided the first legal basis for combating all forms of discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, as well as for the fight against racism and xenophobia in the fields of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.
In June 2000, the Council adopted an important directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. In the same year, the Council also adopted a directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation, and in 2004 a directive on equal treatment for men and women outside the labour market. Together with the proposal adopted in 2008 for a new directive on equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, these complete the European Union legal framework against discrimination.
In 2000, the Council also adopted a Community action programme to combat discrimination (2001-06) designed to support schemes to prevent and combat discrimination based on race or ethnic origin. This was replaced by the PROGRESS programme (2007-13), the Community programme for employment and solidarity.
The Nice Treaty (2003) supplemented the penalty mechanism already provided for by the Amsterdam Treaty with a prevention or warning mechanism, particularly targeting human rights abuses such as racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.