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Renewed commitment for non-discrimination and equal opportunities

This communication provides a comprehensive approach through which the Commission is renewing its commitment to further non-discrimination and equal opportunities in the European Union (EU). It presents the latest developments and aims to strengthen the legal framework against discrimination as well as the policy tools for promoting equal opportunities.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 2 July 2008 – Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: A renewed commitment [COM(2008) 420 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This communication renews the Commission’s commitment to fight against discrimination and to promote equal opportunities by establishing a comprehensive approach to step up action to that end. It also presents the developments in the legal framework against discrimination and in the policy tools for promoting equal opportunities.

An effective legal framework, which is properly enforced, is paramount to fighting discrimination and to guaranteeing efficient systems of redress for victims. Hence, the Commission is committed to monitoring the Member States implementation of the existing legal framework, which consists of Council Directives:

The Commission reported on the implementation of the first two directives in 2006 and 2008, whereas a report on the 2004 directive is expected for 2010. Overall, the implementation of the directives has been perceived as positive. Nevertheless, approximately half of the Member States have not fulfilled their obligations in terms of scope, definitions or provisions on victims’ assistance.

The Commission is also involved in facilitating the cooperation and information exchanges between, as well as the capacity-building of, national equality bodies. These bodies are particularly important in informing and assisting victims in dispute resolutions. Based on their work, the Commission will examine whether penalties and time limits for brining actions before courts are effective at the national level.

At the European level, however, the existing legal framework for fighting discrimination is incomplete, the scope of protection differing from ground to ground. Consequently, the Commission published, together with this communication, a proposal for a directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (COM(2008) 426), which aims to complete the legal framework on anti-discrimination. The directive will prohibit all forms of discrimination and harassment on the above-mentioned grounds beyond the workplace and provide appropriate redress systems for victims throughout the European Union (EU).

A range of policy tools are also needed to complement the legal framework, in order to promote equal opportunities effectively. The Commission is committed to strengthening the:

  • mainstreaming of non-discrimination into all Community policies, building in particular on the achievements of the EU’s disability strategy and the roadmap for equality between women and men for 2006-10;
  • measuring of discrimination and evaluating of progress, to which end it will examine whether the regular collection of statistics on the scale and impact of discrimination and the establishment of a EU-survey module on discrimination are feasible;
  • use of positive action by Member States, especially to enhance equal opportunities for access to education, employment, housing and health care;
  • awareness-raising and training activities on current legislation for the main stakeholders by providing them with further support. It will also continue its EU information campaign ‘For Diversity – Against Discrimination’;
  • promotion of the benefits of diversity at the workplace by encouraging the development of voluntary EU-wide initiatives, further collaboration between businesses and educational institutions, and improving diversity management in public administrations at all levels.

The dialogue on non-discrimination and equal opportunities among relevant stakeholders, which was launched with the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007), will be continued on an annual basis through the equality summits. In addition, a governmental expert group on non-discrimination has been established to carry out impact assessments on and develop benchmarks for measures and policies, as well as to substantiate best practice. One of its first themes of work will be multiple discrimination.

The Commission feels that it is also important to take into consideration the particular concerns of specific groups, such as that of the Roma. The Commission staff working document on community instruments and policies for Roma inclusion, which accompanies this communication, responds to that need.

Last updated: 20.02.2009
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