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Brussels, 14 May 2009

Commission refers Poland to European Court of Justice on gender equality legislation

The Commission has today referred Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for non-transposition of EU rules prohibiting gender discrimination in access to and supply of goods and services (Directive 2004/113/EC). Poland has not yet adopted the necessary measures to give effect to the legislation in national law, despite a 'Reasoned Opinion' (second stage warning) sent by the Commission in 2008 (see IP/08/1014).

Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Equal Opportunities, said: "I regret that Poland has not yet informed the Commission of its national measures to give effect to this important legislation, which was agreed unanimously by Member States and adopted in 2004. Equal treatment is a fundamental right in the EU and this Directive is crucial to tackling discrimination on the basis of gender.

The EU rules ban sex discrimination outside the workplace and prohibit direct and indirect discrimination based on sex, as well as sexual harassment. They apply to goods and services offered to the public, outside the area of private and family life. They do not apply to the content of media and advertising or to education, matters of employment and occupation. Examples of areas where the directive does apply are transport, housing, banking and insurance.

The Commission sent the Polish authorities a Reasoned Opinion – the second stage of infringement proceedings – in June 2008, giving them two months to reply. They informed the Commission that they were in the process of preparing the necessary measures to fully transpose the Directive but have not yet communicated the adoption of these measures. Consequently, the Commission has decided to bring the case to the ECJ.

The deadline to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive expired in 21 December 2007.

Up to now, infringement proceedings have been initiated against twelve Member States, six of which are still open, as in the case of The Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Poland and The United Kingdom.

In accordance with the procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty the Commission sent, in January 2009, a referral to the Court against Greece and The Czech Republic for failing to notify measures to transpose Directive 2004/113/EC. For the remaining countries, the Commission is finalising its analysis of the responses of the national authorities to the reasoned opinions and deciding on the follow-up. Other decisions will be taken in the coming months.


Infringement procedures consist of three steps. The first step is that the Member State receives a letter of formal notice and has two months to respond. In case further compliance with EU legislation is needed, the Commission sends a reasoned opinion. Again the Member State has two months to reply. If there is no satisfactory reply, the Commission can refer the matter to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. It can also request that the Court impose a fine on the country concerned if it does not comply with the Court's ruling.

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