MINELRES: ERT: New equality Directive proposed by the European Commission

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Jul 9 14:17:45 2008

Original sender: Equal Rights Trust <equalrightstrust1@response.pure360.com>

A new multi-ground Directive creates a higher level of protection
against discrimination  
London, 2 July 2008  
Today the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council
Directive to implement the principle of equal treatment between persons
irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual
orientation. The proposed Council Directive will build upon Council
Directive 2000/78/EC (The Employment Equality Directive) and will extend
the protection from discrimination for millions of people across the
European Union in areas including social security, healthcare, education
and access to and supply of goods and services.  

Setting out the legal basis to combat discrimination in these areas, the
Commission also explained that, “The objectives of the proposal cannot
be sufficiently achieved by the Member States acting alone because only
a Community-wide measure can ensure that there is a minimum standard
level of protection against discrimination based on religion or belief,
disability, age, or sexual orientation in all the Member States.” 

The Proposal represents an important step towards combating
discrimination and ensuring social justice in many areas of life for
people living in the European Union. The proposed Directive which
essentially levels up protection from discrimination on grounds of
religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation to that
afforded to race or ethnic origin through Council Directive 2000/43/EC
sends a clear message that discrimination in many social areas is not
only unjust but is unacceptable in today’s European Union. 

On 30 April 2008 The Equal Rights Trust (ERT), which advocates a unified
approach to equality, submitted to the European Commission a detailed
and reasoned communication which put forth a number of recommendations
relating to the content of the proposed Council Directive. One of the
ERT recommendations was that the Commission needed to take steps to
ensure that all grounds are given equal protection in law, thereby
adopting a uniform approach to protecting against discrimination. The
Commission’s Proposal goes some way towards making a unified approach to
equality a reality. The impact which the Council Directive will have in
overcoming the fragmented approach to anti-discrimination law that the
European Union has employed to date should be welcomed.  

Among the many strengths of the Proposal is the definition of reasonable
accommodation in respect to persons with disabilities as a form of
discrimination (Article 2(5)). Furthermore, Article 4 (1)(a) provides
that in order to guarantee compliance with the principle of equal
treatment, anticipatory measures are necessary. Both these aspects of
the proposed Council Directive follow the progressive approach contained
in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which
the European Community has signed. 

Despite this and other important steps forward made by the Proposal, it
contains certain unfortunate limitations and leaves many issues to be
addressed in a future EU equality agenda. In particular, 

1. Discrimination on grounds of sex is still legal in a number of areas
including education – a gap that needs to be filled as soon as possible. 

2. Multiple discrimination has still not been dealt with adequately in
the Proposal: while mentioning it in the preamble in relation to women,
the Proposal does not provide a legal definition of this phenomenon and
leaves victims of multiple discrimination without adequate protection. 

3. Positive action conceptually remains an exception to equal treatment
and is only allowed but not regarded as required in certain cases: an
effort should be made in the future to overcome the limitations of this
anachronistic approach and to see positive action as an integral part of
implementing the principle of non-discrimination. 

4. The limitations to the material scope of the directive and in
particular Article 3(1)(d) are too broad and ambiguous. The decision to
reduce the application of non-discrimination in the area of provision of
goods and services to “individuals only in so far as they are performing
a professional or commercial activity” is unclear and will inevitably
lead to greater confusion among Member States and goods and service
providers that have to implement and adhere to the law.   

The Proposal set forth by the Commission represents an important step
towards improving the lives of people affected by discrimination in the
European Union. However, The Equal Rights Trust believes that a new
equality agenda of the European Union is emerging and should be adopted
for the next decade. All stake holders should continue their efforts in
promoting equality and combating discrimination, if Europe is to come
closer to full equality in practice.  

To see the text of the Proposal for a new equality Directive, click

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