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Strengthening the effectiveness of European Equal Treatment Legislation

June 20th 2016

This conference, held at the EESC in Brussels on 16 June, set out to discuss the experiences of equality bodies and other stakeholders with the implementation and possible shortcomings and gaps in EU equal treatment legislation. It also aimed to find ways to make this legislation comprehensive in its scope and more effective on the ground. The specific challenge of creating the conditions for equality bodies to fulfil their potential were also discussed.

The conference was preceded by a networking event entitled ’Towards an equal Europe’ on 15 June, where the working paper on developing standards for equality bodies was launched, in the presence of Commissioner Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová.

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Background

Equality and non-discrimination are key general principles of the European Union, as spelled out in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The European Union as well as the Council of Europe have already adopted wide-ranging and strong legislation to ensure equality and combat discrimination in Europe. These European legislative instruments have been largely transposed to the legal systems of Member States. However, the review of national experiences reveal that there are still challenges to their implementation and application. This jeopardises the effectiveness of the legislation and the reaching of its objective to put the principle of equal treatment into effect in Member States.

According to the European Commission, in order to combat discrimination and ensure equal treatment, Member States and stakeholders have recognised that equality bodies are essential to ensure that legal rights are actually applied on the ground. At the same time, the Commission also finds it necessary to commit to exploring ways of clarifying the requirements concerning equality bodies, particularly the key concepts of independence and effectiveness.

Objectives

Equality bodies are on the front line in the work of promoting equality and combating discrimination. They have developed practical experience, learning and expertise in the implementation of equal treatment legislation in their country. In turn, ensuring the effective and correct implementation and application of Union legislation is at the heart of the European Commission’s Better Regulation agenda.

The conference set out to discuss the experiences of equality bodies and other stakeholders with the implementation and possible shortcomings and gaps in EU equal treatment legislation. It also looked to find ways to make this legislation comprehensive in its scope and more effective on the ground.

In particular, the conference aimed to:

  • Provide a platform for all stakeholders to discuss the challenges and gaps in the field of equal treatment legislation and its effective implementation
  • Share the experiences of equality bodies and other participants with implementing equal treatment legislation
  • Identify shortcomings and gaps in equal treatment legislation
  • Set out a vision for the future of comprehensive and effective EU equal treatment legislation
  • Clarify requirements concerning equality bodies under the EU equal treatment directives to ensure they can fulfil their potential in support of effective equal treatment legislation

The discussion on standards for equality bodies was based on the Working Paper on developing standards for equality bodies, as developed from the Cluster on Standards meetings held during 2015.

15 June - Networking Reception

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A reception was held at the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive on 15 June for invited participants, to officially launch the Working Paper on developing standards for equality bodies. This reception brought together the heads of equality bodies with top European officials, such as Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová and European Commission Director General for Justice and Consumers, Tiina Astola.

  • Equinet Welcome (Evelyn Collins, Chair of Equinet, Chief Executive of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland)
Towards an Equal Europe, Networking Reception - Brussels, 15 June 2016

16 June - Equinet Conference

OPENING SESSION

  • Evelyn Collins, Chair of Equinet, Chief Executive of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
  • Pavel Trantina, President, Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship, European Economic and Social Committee
  • Keynote address: Equal treatment as a cornerstone of Good Administration (Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman)

SESSION 1 - Setting the Scene: Challenges in the field of equality law

Chair: Kirsi Pimiä, Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Finland

Contributions by:

SESSION 2 - The contribution and potential of equality bodies

Chair: Evelyn Collins, Equinet Chair, Chief Executive of Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

SESSION 3 - Looking forward: Towards more effective equal treatment legislation

Chair: Sandra Konstatzky, Deputy Director, Ombud for Equal Treatment, Austria

  • Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President, European Parliament (video message)
  • Soraya Post, Member of the European Parliament
  • Pierre Baussand, Director, Social Platform
  • Pavel Trantina, President, Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC), European Economic and Social Committee
  • Martin Mörk, Deputy Ombudsman and Head of Litigation, Equality Ombudsman, Sweden

CONCLUDING SESSION

Download the Agenda

Final Agenda (Word Version)
Final Agenda (Word Version)
Final Agenda (PDF Version)
Final Agenda (PDF Version)


Conference Photos

Strengthening the effectiveness of European Equal Treatment Legislation - Brussels, 16 June 2016