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Brussels, 4 May 2010

Equality: European Commission refers Poland to Court of Justice over race equality rules

The European Commission today referred Poland to the EU Court of Justice for incorrectly implementing EU rules prohibiting discrimination based on race or ethnic origin (Race Equality Directive 2000/43/EC, see also MEMO/07/257). The move comes after Poland failed to adequately transpose the legislation agreed at EU level in its national law.

In referring Poland to the Court, the Commission pointed out that:

  • Poland has not transposed the Directive outside the field of employment. There are no specific provisions in Polish legislation that would prohibit discrimination on grounds of race or ethnic origin with regard to social protection and social advantages, access to goods and services, including housing, membership in trade unions, employers' bodies and professional organisations and access to education.

  • Similarly, the Polish provisions on protection against victimisation cover only the field of employment and not the other areas within the Directive’s scope.


Anti-discrimination (in areas outside gender and nationality discrimination) is a relatively new area of EU policy. Following the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, the EU acquired new powers to combat discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, age and sexual orientation (former Article 13 TEC, now Article 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). This led to the unanimous adoption by Member States of two Directives in 2000:

  • Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin (Race Equality Directive). This Directive covers direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment, in the fields of employment, vocational training, education, social protection (including social security and health care), social advantages and access to goods and services (including housing).

  • Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment, occupation and vocational training (Employment Equality Directive). This Directive covers direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment, in employment and training on the grounds of religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation. It includes specific requirements on reasonable accommodation for disabled persons.

The deadlines for Member States to transpose these two directives were 19 July and 2 December 2003, respectively. For the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004, the deadline was 1 May 2004. For Bulgaria and Romania, it was 1 January 2007.

Further information

EU anti-discrimination legislation

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