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Brussels, 13 October 1999

Commission adopts a new initiative to fight labour market discrimination and inequalitiés(EQUAL)

The European Commission has adopted the draft of the new Community initiative, EQUAL, which presents the proposed guidelines for the period 2000-2006 and which describes in detail the aims, scope and procedures for implementing the initiative. As specified in the new structural funds regulation, EQUAL deals with "transnational cooperation to promote new means of combating all forms of discrimination and inequalities in connection with the labour market ". EQUAL will also take due account of the social and vocational integration. The Initiative, financed by the European Social Fund (ESF), is one of the components of the European employment strategy and gives clear priority to an active and preventive approach to equal opportunities for all according to themes defined in the framework of this strategy. Member States will be required to ensure that this horizontal thematic approach will give priority to those who are victims of the main forms of discrimination and inequality (based on sex, race or, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation). Through its transnational dimension and the importance granted to networking and capitalisation activities, EQUAL will act as a testing ground to foster a labour market open to all and, to this end, experiment with new ways of delivery, single out good practices and ensure sound dissemination of results which it has been possible to build on.

This Community Initiative is the first to be put forward by Anna DIAMANTOPOULOU, European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and European Social Fund.

EQUAL is in keeping with the Employment and Adapt initiatives but has a new, more integrated, multi-dimensional approach to the factors which cause discrimination. The initiative is built around "development partnerships" based on location or sector and working on themes structured around the four pillars of the European employment strategy.

Firmly rooted in the real world, these partnerships, which bring together partners from state and private bodies and associations, will have to act as genuine vehicles for this joint employment dynamic by the Member States. They must do so by increasing locally the profile of the annual guidelines; by giving thought to the activities and exchanges strengthened at the transnational level; by systematically looking for ways to build on the good practices detected, and by being explicitly mindful of impact and mainstreaming in the employment policies of the member states and in the joint strategy.

The paper adopted by the Commission gives details of schemes, selection guidelines, the procedures for transnational cooperation and the mechanisms for the dissemination and impact of good practices. It sets out the conditions for preparing, submitting and approving EQUAL programmes and for monitoring and evaluating them. For the period 2000-2006, the initiative has a budget of € 2 847 millions.

Adoption of this draft by the Commission allows for consultation of the European Social Fund Committee and discussion of it within the European Parliament and other Community institutions with a view to final adoption by the Commission by the end of the year. The first call for projects could be launched by the end of 2000.

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