Sixty years ago in Rome, the foundations were laid for the Europe that we know today, ushering in the longest period of peace in written history in Europe. The Treaties of Rome established a common market where people, goods, services and capital can move freely and created the conditions for prosperity and stability for European citizens.
So starts the EU’s webpage celebrating the 60th anniversary of signing the Treaty of Rome and setting up the European Economic Community (EEC), the precursor to today’s European Union. As the name suggests, the EEC was set up and built around a logic of economics and preventing violent conflicts between European nations. In the course of the last six decades it has become the strongest economic power and this is something to acknowledge and celebrate.
However, it is worth remembering on this day that already in the EEC and as early as the Treaty of Rome, in the shadow of economic and geopolitical considerations, the countries also committed to protect equal pay for equal work or work of equal value: ‘Each Member State shall during the first stage ensure and subsequently maintain the application of the principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work’ (Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome).
This important provision was later followed by other crucial commitments in legislation and Court of Justice case law, establishing gender equality and subsequently equality on other grounds as a general principle of EU law.
Today, when we remember 60 years of European integration, we at Equinet first and foremost celebrate and recall this remarkable journey of the European Union becoming a community built on fundamental rights and the values of equality and non-discrimination.
However, our celebratory mood is dampened by the current negative discourse in many places around Europe, downplaying the importance of these fundamental rights and values and refusing to grant further guarantees and take action against discrimination. We cannot but recall that 60 years after the Treaty of Rome declared it illegal, the gender pay gap still lingers on average over 16% in the EU and we are saddened that the EU seems to have lost its ability and willingness to enshrine new legislation, providing comprehensive protection against discrimination to all persons on its territory.
Today’s celebrations should also be seen as an opportunity to decide to re-establish the EU as a world leader in equality, non-discrimination and fundamental rights. Today we should celebrate and on Monday we should invigorate our work towards this.