Brussels, 19 June 2009
The Commission has today adopted a communication on the implementation, the results and the overall assessment of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (EYEO). This communication shows that the most important factor in the EYEO's success was the political commitment of the Member States, the European institutions and civil society. The Member States not only allocated considerable resources to practical implementation, but were also prepared — sometimes for the first time — to discuss openly the situation regarding discrimination in their countries and to draw up public strategies for tackling the problems identified.
"Equality and non-discrimination are not luxuries reserved for times of economic growth. With unemployment rising and the risk of poverty and exclusion increasing in the current economic recession, the EU and the Member States need to strengthen their commitment to equal opportunities more than ever," said Vladimír Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. " The 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All was a great success, which mobilised in quite a short period of time, all concerned stakeholders both at EU and national level."
The overall objectives of the European Year were to make people more aware of their rights to enjoy equal treatment and a life free of discrimination – irrespective of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation and to launch a major debate on the benefits of diversity for European societies.
EYEO actions were decentralised. To that end, the 30 participating countries (the 27 Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) were each to designate a National Implementing Body (NIB), which was generally a ministry. Each NIB was to design a national strategy to implement the EYEO in close cooperation with civil society. The results are impressive: 1 000 meetings and events, around 440 national-level campaigns and over 120 studies and surveys.
The evaluation report shows that out of 30 NIBs, most of them (25) believed that national strategies would not have been drawn up if there had been no EYEO. When the EYEO concluded, 72% of the action leaders expected their actions to continue or be repeated after the EYEO ended. Not only was the drafting of national strategies an achievement in itself, but it also clearly strengthened cooperation within government authorities and civil society organisations and between them. More than 140 networks were generated as a direct result of the EYEO. Most of them (95) are expected to continue in the coming years.
In addition to meeting its overall objectives, the EYEO triggered a debate on breaking down the barriers between the six discrimination grounds. The debate fed into the Commission's decision to adopt a new proposal for a directive that would provide protection from discrimination beyond the workplace. These achievements will contribute to dispelling the fears and prejudices that the financial and economic crisis may arouse and to countering the setting-up of new discriminatory barriers that could increase exclusion and hamper economic recovery.
More information on anti-discrimination:
More information on the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All - achievements and legacy:
Full evaluation report of the 2007 EYEO
Commission's proposal for a Directive, which provides for protection from discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief beyond the workplace
'For Diversity. Against Discrimination.' campaign