First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Equality is one of the fundamental values upon which the European Union is built, but it is not a given. We need good laws and strong and independent equality bodies to defend our core principles and values so that victims of discrimination can right the wrongs they face."
European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová added: "Discrimination has no place in the EU. Victims or witnesses of discrimination should know where to turn and equality bodies are there to help them in these situations. We must ensure that national equality bodies are independent, with sufficient resources to carry out their task. They play a key role in ensuring all citizens are given equal rights and equal opportunities."
Equality bodies are independent organisations assisting victims of discrimination, monitoring and reporting on discrimination issues, and promoting equality throughout the EU. Member States should ensure their independence and that they have the necessary resources to cover all types of grounds for discrimination such as sex, race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. They should also ensure better awareness-raising about the role of national equality bodies and how citizens can access equality bodies and exercise their rights in case of discrimination.
The Commission is recommending the following measures:
- Greater independence: Member States should ensure independence of equality bodies through their administrative structure, budget allocation, procedures for appointing and dismissing staff and preventing conflicts of interest. They should make it possible for equality bodies to gather evidence and information.
- Legal assistance: Member States should enable equality bodies to handle individual or collective complaints, provide legal assistance and represent victims or organisations in court.
- Adequate resources and staffing: Member States should ensure equality bodies have the necessary human, technical and financial resources and infrastructure.
- Effective coordination and cooperation: Member States should provide the necessary conditions to ensure appropriate communication between equality bodies within the Member State across the EU, and internationally.
Member States are encouraged to include their follow-up to this Recommendation in their mandatory reporting on the Equality Directives.
A group of directives known as 'Equality Directives' (listed in the Recommendation) oblige Member States to have at least one organisation – an equality body – established in their country to analyse and monitor discrimination, as well as promote and protect equal treatment of everyone living there.
The European Parliament's 2015 resolution calling for equality body standards was followed by the Commission's 2016 Communication EU Law: Better Results through Better Application, in which it committed to help Member States ensure that individuals and groups facing discrimination are protected by the Union and know their rights. The best way to effectively implement and enforce this EU legislation is through the use of independent equality bodies.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on the European Union both guarantee that no one can be discriminated against, on grounds of sex, race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
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Find the equality body in your country
European Network of equality bodies – Equinet