The European Commission’s proposals for new Directives on standards for Equality Bodies are a major step for equality in Europe. Equinet and National Equality Bodies call on Member States and the European Parliament to support the Commission’s proposals to secure their swift adoption and implementation.
The European Commission today released proposals for two new EU Directives on standards for Equality Bodies, that aim to strengthen Equality Bodies for the promotion of equal treatment. Building on EU Equal Treatment Directives and a 2018 European Commission Recommendation, these new Directives will be the first legally binding minimum standards addressing the mandate of Equality Bodies; their independence; their effectiveness, including sufficient resources and appropriate powers; their accessibility and the national institutional architecture for equality.
Tena Šimonović Einwalter, Chair of Equinet Executive Board: “I welcome this important step forward by the European Commission aimed at us, Equality Bodies, reaching our full potential in fighting discrimination and helping the people that turn to us. The swift adoption and implementation of these Directives would be a major step towards reinforcing the implementation of EU’s equal treatment legislation, so, on behalf of all of us equality bodies I invite the Member States to adopt them, as a step towards a more equal Europe.”
The European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. Equality and non-discrimination are central to the aspirations for the better future of the European Union and are vital for creating just societies.
Yet discrimination is frequently identified by international and regional human rights bodies as one of the greatest human rights challenges facing EU Member States.
National Equality Bodies are at the heart of the national equality infrastructure, with a distinct role from national governments or civil society organisations. They are public institutions set up specifically to promote equality and tackle discrimination on grounds of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion and belief, disability, or other grounds. Equality Bodies are an important first point of contact for victims of discrimination, enhance access to justice and work towards the effective implementation of EU equality legislation. Equality Bodies are also key enablers of civil society and are well situated to address non-discrimination from an intersectional perspective.
Until now, provisions in EU legislation on Equality Bodies enabled unequal protection against discrimination across the EU, leaving a large discretion to the Member States as to the mandate, powers, independence, and resources of these bodies.
Many Equality Bodies do not have the legal powers necessary to effectively step up against discrimination. In many countries, due to inadequate resources, premises and services of Equality Bodies are not accessible to all, they do not have regional or local offices, and the awareness about Equality Bodies is too low. Furthermore, in recent years, many Equality Bodies have experienced attempts to undermine their independence or disproportionately decrease their resources making them even less accessible for victims of discrimination. This is ultimately a loss for the societies within which they work. It undermines the impact and aspiration of EU Equal Treatment Directives to promote equality and protect all in society.
“Discrimination has no place in Europe. We must ensure that all National Equality Bodies are independent, with the mandate and resources necessary to effectively implement equality legislation and to drive change. They are champions of equality and non-discrimination, ensuring all citizens are given equal rights and equal opportunities”, according to Equinet Co-Directors Anne Gaspard and Tamás Kádár.
Equinet welcomes the fact that today’s proposals set a high level of ambition to strengthen Equality Bodies in practice. Binding legislation on standards for Equality Bodies will be a major step towards better implementation and enforcement of the EU’s equal treatment legislation, helping to fulfil its ultimate goal of creating equal societies and eradicating discrimination. We will work with all our partners to support the legislative process and ensure comprehensive and ambitious standards are adopted and implemented, so that Equality Bodies can work to protect citizens’ rights, act as a valued partner on equality and non-discrimination across Europe, and ultimately, guarantee more equal societies for all.
For more information, please contact:
Sarah Cooke O’Dowd – Head of Membership & Communication
T: +32 (0) 2 212 3184