Following the EU Anti-racism Action Plan and the LGBTIQ+ and Roma Equality Strategies, in which the Commission raised the possibility of proposing EU-level legislation to strengthen the role and independence of equality bodies, the Commission has launched on 24th July a new initiative through which it intends to strengthen equality bodies by setting minimum standards on how they operate in all grounds of discrimination and areas covered by EU equality rules.Public Consultation Now Open (more info below)
Equinet’s Project on Standards for Equality Bodies has been a driver for engagement with the EC on proposed EU-level legislation strengthening the role and independence of equality bodies. As part of this project, two sets of indicators measuring standards for equality bodies were developed, on mandates and independence. In 2021, these indicators were tested for adequacy and usability by five equality bodies (from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany and Romania).
Equinet has also published its paper ‘Legislating for stronger, more effective equality bodies’, which sets out Equinet’s ambitions and proposals for EU legislation on equality bodies. It is based on and should be read together with the existing European Commission and ECRI Recommendations and prior Equinet perspective on European equality policy strategies and standards for equality bodies.
The current provisions on equality bodies leave a large discretion to the Member States as to the mandate, powers, independence, effectiveness, and resources of these bodies. Differences between the Member States in the structure and functioning of equality bodies result in unequal protection against discrimination across the EU. There are still gaps in the protection for some grounds and/or some fields in around a third of Member States. Furthermore, a significant number of equality bodies are not fully independent from the government and the lack of resources prevent them from fulfilling their missions, such as conducting surveys. Finally, the Commission’s 2021 Staff Working Document highlights that the 2018 Commission Recommendation on standards for equality bodies has only partially been implemented by the Members States. Thus, most of the issues the Recommendation aimed to address remain unresolved.
The present initiative aims therefore to tackle these issues and further strengthen equality bodies’ visibility, role, and effective and independent functioning, by the adoption of new binding EU legislation on equality bodies.
The proposed initiative intends to set binding minimum standards for equality bodies, building on the 2018 Commission Recommendation and also on other sources such as the General Policy Recommendation Nº2 of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the Paris Principles applied to National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).
According to the Roadmap, the Standards could address the following areas:
A consultation period is running from 10 December 2021 to 18 March 2022 (midnight Brussels time) to inform the Commission’s work on further measures to strengthen equality bodies. It will gather opinions on the current situation of equality bodies and possible future improvement. Information on the personal experiences of the individual respondents will also be gathered to inform the analysis of their replies.
Equinet strongly encourages all its members to contribute to this consultation by filling in the online questionnaire. You can submit your responses in any official EU language.
Equality bodies and Equinet will play a central role in the consultation activities:
At the end of the study and the consultation activities, an analytical document will be drawn up to present evaluative evidence concerning the current provisions on equality bodies (including the lack thereof) in some directives and how they are implemented, and an assessment of the different policy options and their economic impacts.The Roadmap and Consultation links are available on the European Commission website