New Year’s Resolution? EU vows to fight discrimination

In spite of actions taken at European level to eliminate discrimination, much remains to be done. In order to promote equality, the Commission has launched the ‘Year of Equal Opportunities for All’.

The Commission is to launch the European Year on 23 January 2007 with the presentation of the results of a recent Eurobarometer on discrimination. The aim of this initiative is to make EU citizens aware of their right to non-discrimination and equal treatment, to promote equal opportunities for all and to promote the benefits of diversity for the EU.

Key core issues form the focus of the European Year: rights, representation, recognition, respect and tolerance. The year will also look at possible new measures and the creation of a high-level group to look at the social and labour market- integration of minorities.

European Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said: “Europe must work towards real equality in practice. The European Year of Equal Opportunities for All and the framework strategy will provide a new drive towards ensuring the full application of EU anti-discrimination legislation, which has encountered too many obstacles and delays. Fundamental rights, non-discrimination and equal opportunities will remain key priorities for the Commission.”

In 2006, women were more likely to be unemployed than men in the EU25, with an unemployment rate of 9.6% for women compared to 7.6% for men. On average, a third of women were in part-time jobs and only 32% of the managers in the EU-25 were women. In 2004 the gender pay gap was 15%.

The history of EU anti-discrimination legislation goes back to the Treaty of Rome (1957), which provided the principle of equal pay for men and women. Later, the principles of gender mainstreaming and equality between women and men in the workplace, as well as outside, were anchored in the treaties.

These provisions were further elaborated in the equal pay and equal treatment directives in the mid (1975/76). The 2000 racial equality and employment equality directives went even further, to prohibit discrimination, harassment and victimisation in employment on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, in employment and areas beyond such as education, social security and social advantages, including housing and healthcare.

However, member states often fall short of implementing and enforcing these provisions. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) already condemned Austria, Finland, Germany and Luxembourg for not sufficiently implementing EU anti-discrimination legislation.

  • The Parliament is to vote on a 'Road map for equality between women and men – 2006-2010' on 24 January 2007. 
  • On 31 January 2007 an 'Equality Summit' in Berlin will be launched, which will bring together EU officials, social partners and NGOs.

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