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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
|Towards an Equal Europe, Networking Reception – Brussels, 15 June 2016|
Chair: Kirsi Pimiä, Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, Finland
Chair: Evelyn Collins, Equinet Chair, Chief Executive of Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Chair: Sandra Konstatzky, Deputy Director, Ombud for Equal Treatment, Austria
|Strengthening the effectiveness of European Equal Treatment Legislation – Brussels, 16 June 2016|