The sub-group of the High Level Group on Anti-Discrimination, Equality and Diversity met on 18-19 June 2019 in Stockholm. The meeting was chaired by the head of the Hungarian Equal Treatment Authority’s Department of Authorities and Legal Affairs.
In June 2018, the European Commission set standards for national bodies dealing with equal treatment and equal opportunities. At a high-level group subgroup meeting in Stockholm, participants shared first and foremost good practices that are in line with the Commission’s recommendation and exchanged their experiences and opinions on issues such as independence, effective operation, priorities, leadership of national bodies, leaders. Procedures for Appointment, Strategic Litigation, Cooperation with Civil Society, Consultative Activities vs. Representation of Courts / Customers in Court were also discussed.
Presentations were made on specific issues and several organizations presented their activities. Participants came from national equality bodies, law enforcement agencies, ombudsman organizations and ministries, and Equinet (European Network of Equality Bodies).
The Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection presented the Austrian decision-making process, and the representative of the Ministry of European Affairs and Equality in Malta presented the organisational and decision-making process of the equality body to be set up. A representative of the Swedish Equality Ombudsman presented their decision-making process as an equality body. Pros and cons have been argued in the group discussion on what type of organization is the most optimal. There were some who were quasi-judicial bodies, while others argued for bodies that did not make binding decisions that only deal with counseling.
Everyone agreed that in the European Union, a wide range of organizations dealing with equality, equal treatment and differentiation are guaranteed in terms of their financial independence, in terms of managerial choices and their organizational structure.
A representative of the UK Government Equal Opportunities Government and a member of the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Kingdom Relations and the Slovak Ministry of Justice made a short presentation of the selection practices and mandates of leaders of equality bodies.
In the small group discussion, there was a very diverse picture of the selection of management. In some cases, the Prime Minister appoints the leader of the Equal Opportunities Board, and elsewhere it is in the Parliament’s power. Some have a mandate for four or five years, elsewhere indefinitely, while for some bodies the appointment of a leader can be renewed once or more. Occasionally, the leader is recommended by an expert body; elsewhere, such a body evaluates its work and proposes to renew its mandate. The practice is therefore very varied. There is also an example that leadership is not a single person, but a body. In their view, the body has a greater guarantee of independence, because the one-person leader can depend on the parties and NGOs.
In addition, the subgroup also addressed the recommendations of national equality bodies and equal treatment bodies. Several bodies regularly issue recommendations on issues that concern a wide range of society. In Belgium, such recommendations are submitted to the law and monitored for as long as they are legislated or rejected. There was a consensus that the recommendations should be addressed to both the public and the private sector and to the widest possible public.
Budapest, June 27, 2019: By dr. Katalin Gregor, Equal Treatment Authority, Hungary