The twin principles of equality and non-discrimination are the bedrock of the UN human rights framework. Freedom from discrimination is the only right set out in all nine of the core human rights treaties. The problem of discrimination is a regular feature identified during human rights reviews of EU Member States.
Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union stipulates that the EU is founded upon the “values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”. The period 2000-present has seen landmark developments in Europe’s fight against discrimination. European Union anti-discrimination law, however, continues to leave a number of gaps in areas protected by international human rights law. In particular, with the exception of racial or ethnic origin and sex, EU anti-discrimination law only extends to the area of employment.
A draft EU “Horizontal Directive”, pending since July 2008 would strengthen the ban on discrimination on grounds of disability, age, religion or belief and sexual orientation. If adopted, millions of Europeans would benefit from expanded protection against discrimination.
With the current European Commission and Parliament entering their final period, the UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe (OHCHR ROE) and Equinet convened a public discussion on the state-of-play of EU anti-discrimination law, with particular attention to the draft EU Horizontal anti-discrimination directive. The discussion was intended to review reasons for the importance of the draft Directive, as well as to provide support for entities endeavoring to advance the debate.