Fight against discrimination
NGO coalition urges EU not to shelve directive
By Sophie Petitjean | Thursday 12 January 2012
Given the Council’s lack of progress on the anti-discrimination directive for more than three and a half years, seven European non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have decided to shift into higher gear. On 12 January, AGE Platform Europe, Amnesty International, the European Disability Forum (EDF), the European Network against Racism (ENAR), the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), ILGA-Europe and the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organisation stepped up pressure on the European Commission, Council of Ministers and Danish EU Presidency. Their message is clear: the draft directive, aimed at extending protection against discrimination on grounds of religion or convictions, disability, age or sexual orientation to areas other than employment, must not be shelved. “Given the current climate of growing intolerance against minorities and the impact of the financial and economic crisis on the most vulnerable groups across Europe, including persons with disabilities and older people, we urge the European Commission to put the proposed law back on the political agenda,” states the coalition of NGOs active in human rights and anti-discrimination. “We urge the Danish Presidency of the EU to take the lead in moving forward with negotiations in a transparent manner, open to the input of human rights and anti-discrimination experts including civil society; and we urge the Council of the EU not to undermine the Commission’s proposal and to ensure swift adoption of a strong and ambitious anti-discrimination directive, which also covers multiple discrimination.”
The draft directive, presented in July 2008, builds on three existing texts: Directives 2000/43/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin; 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation; and 2004/113/EC on equal treatment between men and women. It aims to outlaw discrimination in the following areas: social protection, including social security and health care, social benefits, education and access to goods and services, including housing. At the time, this objective was greeted positively by the Council, the sole legislator on this issue (under Article 19 TFEU, the Council acts unanimously, after approval by the European Parliament). Yet, after three and a half years of negotiation, only a few member states still strongly support the text. The countries most opposed, led by Germany, fear the proposal’s (costly) implications on their national laws.
Under the Polish Council Presidency, discussions advanced slightly on provisions concerning age discrimination. Several questions are still unsettled, however: 1. the distribution of competences, scope and subsidiarity; 2. provisions on disability, including accessibility for persons with a disability and reasonable accommodation; 3. the implementing timeframe; and 4. legal certainty for the entire directive.
“If this proposal is shelved, the consequences will be severe. Hopes were raised that at last everyone would enjoy the same rights and access to goods and services wherever they are in the EU. Currently, a person can be denied access to a hotel, housing or bar based on their religious belief or sexual orientation,” warns the coalition. It backs up its claims with figures, showing, for example, that 53% of respondents to a survey on social exclusion of young lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals reported having experienced bullying at school.
“If this proposal is shelved, the consequences will be severe”