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Equal Treatment Directive & Equality discussed at June EPSCO Council

June 24th 2016

At the June meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Counci, the progress report of the Equal Treatment Directive, as well as conclusions on gender and LGBTI equality were discussed.

Equal treatment directive

According to a background note prepared in advance of the EPSCO Council that took place in Luxembourg on 16-17 June, the Council was to take note of a progress report on a directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons, irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

The Dutch presidency has sought to clarify the interplay between this directive and the European accessibility Act. The latter contains detailed accessibility rules for certain products and services, which will benefit persons with disabilities. The equal treatment directive is a broader and more general instrument.

Nevertheless, member states expressed doubts regarding subsidiarity, legal certainty and the division of competences of the Equal treatment directive. Since the adoption of the directive requires Council unanimity, work will continue.

Equal Treatment Direction & Equinet

Equinet has called on a number of occasions for the Equal Treatment Directive to be adopted.

Response to the Commission’s strategic engagement for gender equality

The Commission’s strategy for equality between women and men 2010 - 2015 expired at the end of 2015. The Council and the European Parliament have invited the Commission to adopt a new strategy, and stressed that it should have the same status as the previous one, meaning it should be officially adopted as a communication.

At the EPSCO Council on 7 December 2015, ministers held an exchange of views on the Commission’s strategic engagement. Many ministers lamented the fact that no formal strategy had been adopted, as this implicitly downgraded the status of gender equality policy within the EU. Nevertheless, as regards the substance of the Commission’s strategic engagement, member states generally supported the five priorities identified in the document: equal economic independence for women and men; equal pay for work of equal value; equality in decision-making; dignity, integrity and ending gender-based violence; and promoting gender equality beyond the EU.

Read final Council Conclusions on gender equality Equinet Website. These include a call on the European Commission and Member States to reinforce and continue to support the action of national institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women and gender equality, including equality bodies, which are crucial for the advancement of de jure and de facto gender equality, as well as that of the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet).

EPSCO Summary via EPSCO Background note in advance of June meeting

Gender Equality & Equinet

Equinet released a Perspective in 2015 entitled ’The persistence of discrimination, harrassment and inequality for women. The work of equality bodies informing a new European Commission Strategy for gender equality’. This gathered the learning from the work of equality bodies across Europe so as to inform the preparation and content of the new strategy. The preliminary findings of this Perspective were presented at the Equinet Conference ’Taking Action for Gender Equality’, held in March 2015.

Response to the Commission’s list of actions to advance LGBTI equality

In December 2015, the Commission published a list of specific targeted actions to combat LGBTI discrimination in the EU in 2016-19. The actions have been defined in consultation with the EP, civil society and member states, and in the light of research carried out by the EU fundamental rights agency, information from relevant international bodies, and the Commission’s own data.

Despite the evidence of widespread discrimination and harassment experienced by LGBTI persons, only limited action has been taken so far at EU level to address the problem. Workplace discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is already prohibited by Council directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.

Read final Council Conclusions on LGBTI equality on Equinet Website. These include a call on the European Commission and Member States to reinforce and continue to support the action of institutional mechanisms, including national Equality Bodies, which are crucial instruments for the non-discrimination of LGBTI persons, as well as that of the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet).

EPSCO Summary via EPSCO Background note in advance of June meeting

LGBTI Equality & Equinet

Equinet released a Perspective in 2013 entitled ’Equality Bodies promoting equality and non-discrimination for LGBTI people’. This aimed to inform the policy debate on LGBTI issues at EU and national levels by identifying and extracting relevant lessons from the work of equality bodies promoting equality for and combating discrimination against LGBTI people. This fed into the Equinet training event on LGBTI issues’, held in June 2014.

Standards for Equality Bodies

Equality bodies are key to combatting discrimination and ensuring the effective implementation of equal treatment legislation. Therefore, in order to support the work on gender and LGBTI equality, and to effectively implement current or even future legislation, we call for European standards for national equality bodies that ensure the potential of equality bodies to support the achievement of full equality in practice.