Official Journal of the European Union

C 71/62

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the Green Paper on equality and non-discrimination in an enlarged European Union

(2005/C 71/15)


Having regard to the Green Paper on equality and non-discrimination in an enlarged European Union COM(2004) 379 final,

Having regard to the decision of its Bureau of 1 July 2003 to instruct its Commission for Economic and Social Policy to draw up an opinion on this subject, under the fifth paragraph of Article 265 of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Having regard to its opinion on equal treatment (CdR 513/99 fin) (1),

Having regard to its opinion on implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services (CdR 19/2004 fin) (2)

Having regard to its draft opinion (CdR 241/2004 rev 1) adopted on 4 October 2004 by the Commission for Economic and Social Policy (rapporteur: Cllr Peter Moore, Sheffield City Council (UK/ELDR)),

adopted the following opinion unanimously at its 57th plenary session of 17 and 18 November 2004 (meeting of 18 November).



(I)   Meeting the Challenge of Enlargement


welcomes the view of the Commission that enlargement should be used as an incentive for all member states to step up their efforts to address the challenges faced by minorities, and its recognition that this relates in particular to the Roma;


agrees that the rights based approach with respect to areas such as disability, age and sexual orientation as reflected in EU anti-discrimination policy, is still a relatively new concept both for public authorities and NGOs in some of the member states;


regrets that in the absence of an amendment to Article 13 of the EC Treaty, the adoption of Community legislation in this area continues to require unanimous agreement.

(II)   Implementing Non-Discrimination in Law and Practice


deplores the emergence of a hierarchy of protection between different groups covered by Article 13. Disparities remain in both material scope as well as enforcement mechanisms for different types of discrimination - an effective approach to anti-discrimination requires greater equality in the level of protection available and an enhancement in the consistency of the law in this regard. The CoR also reminds the Commission that a more comprehensive EU policy framework remains to be completed with respect to disability, age, sexual orientation, religion and belief. For example, the CoR recognises that people with disabilities often face discrimination in the form of inaccessible public transport, built environment and an inaccessible info/communications environment. The Commission has not published any communications specifically and exclusively on sexual orientation issues in EU law and policy, yet this is clearly covered by Article 13 of the Treaty;


considers that insufficient institutional support for individual litigants, where individual litigation remains the primary mechanism for enforcement, severely curtails the effectiveness of the law. Individuals experience difficulties in evidence-gathering, in insufficient safeguards against victimisation, and substantial financial difficulties in meeting the costs of litigation;


believes that whilst ‘soft legislation’ and non-legislative actions can have an impact (measures such as memoranda, resolutions, declarations, etc.) these tend to be more effective when they build on pre-existing and binding Community law. An example would be the limited success of the Commission's guidelines on the employment of disabled people (when not reinforced by Community law) in terms of national legal developments.

(III)   Improving Data Collection, Monitoring and Analysis


considers that systematic collection of data and information will provide the EU with a better overview of the location and occurrence of discrimination, better formulation of strategies and methods to improve the comparability, objectivity, consistency and reliability of data at Community level, a better gauge of the impact of policy and funding, and increased cooperation with the national university research centres, NGOs and specialist advocacy groups/centres. Local and regional authorities already play a key role in ongoing data collection and information analysis.

(IV)   Making Full Use of EU Funding


notes that despite the impact and scope of their projects, smaller NGOs and grass-roots organisations are sometimes unable to access EU funding, largely due to excessively complex bureaucracy; believes that small local and regional ones are finding it almost impossible to continue their work without funding.

(V)   Reinforcing Co-operation with Stakeholders


welcomes the recognition in the Green Paper of the key role of local and regional authorities, with respect to equality and non-discrimination in an enlarged European Union; as leading employers, local and regional authorities should in carrying out their functions, consider positive action in having due regard to: a) the need to eliminate discrimination under the directives; b) the need to eliminate harassment that is unlawful; and, c) the need to promote equality of opportunity between persons from Article 13 groups and other people.

(VI)   Ensuring Complementarity with Other Areas of EU Policy


considers that the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights will highlight areas of discrimination not covered by the existing legislation;


questions whether mainstreaming has been sufficiently addressed in certain policy areas, and whether certain law and policy initiatives themselves are consistent with the logic of anti-discrimination legislation and actions being taken under the auspices of Article 13;


notes that although mutual recognition of qualifications acquired in the EU has been enhanced, there is no agreement regarding the qualifications obtained by third country nationals in the EU, or qualifications obtained in countries outside the EU, regardless of the nationality of the holder of these qualifications;


deplores inaccurate and stereotypical portrayals of various Article 13 groups which have led to the ongoing erosion of dignity and public perceptions of certain groups in public life, political rhetoric, media and advertising. This undermines the principle of equal treatment;


welcomes the Directive 2003/109/EC adopted in January 2004 which granted Third country nationals who have been legally resident in member states for 5 years the legal status comparable to that of citizens of member states in order to complement the Racial Equality Directive. However in order to address the issue of accession to Nationality or Citizenship or voting rights the directive needs to be better elucidated.

2.   Recommendations


(I)   Meeting the Challenge of Enlargement


calls for specific funding allocations and specific strands of the Action Plan to be targeted towards Roma projects;


calls for greater discussions, debates and education forums among all member states on the issue of social citizenship, discrimination, and fundamental human and social rights, and the establishment of consultation and monitoring processes at national level for action to combat discrimination on all grounds covered in Article 13.

(II)   Implementing Non-Discrimination in Law and Practice


recalling its earlier decision, instructs the current Secretary General to evaluate the personnel policy and employee profile of the General Secretariat with regard to its compliance with the new legislation, and to report back both to the Bureau and this commission within six months; to commission and publish a vademecum of anti-discrimination good practice for local authorities as employers, including examples from each Member State of initiatives covering all six grounds for discrimination recognised by Article 13 EC;


calls for comprehensive legislation on goods and services to be extended to all areas covered in Article 13; specifically, calls for greater protection to be provided against discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender, religion or belief, and sexual orientation;


calls on the Commission to work with Member States to provide for adequate, effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and procedures against breaches of the obligations under the Directives, and to accelerate the transposition of these into national law;


calls for greater institutional support for individuals seeking legal redress for all Article 13 groups; organisations with a legitimate interest should be able to bring enforcement actions on behalf of, or in support of, individual complainants, with that individual's approval; where presumption of discrimination is established (i.e. facts from which it may be presumed that there has been direct or indirect discrimination), burden of proof should always shift to the respondent; any adverse treatment or consequence as a reaction to a complaint should be prohibited.

(III)   Improving Data Collection, Monitoring and Analysis


calls for increased cooperation with Member States and national authorities to improve monitoring and reporting mechanisms.

(IV)   Making Full Use of EU Funding


calls on the Commission, in collaboration with European level EU- funded NGOs, to seek creative methods of allowing small NGOs to access smaller levels of funding.

(V)   Reinforcing Cooperation with Stakeholders


commits the CoR to the development of the EU anti-discrimination agenda and considers that its involvement in the setting, planning, communication and implementation of this agenda should be further promoted with all stakeholders;


requests that the CoR should be invited as a matter of course to EU conferences and seminars dealing with equality and non-discrimination and particularly in the issues of discrimination against the Roma;


calls for greater consultation with representatives from civil society during the process of implementation;


calls on all EU institutions to better reflect the letter and spirit of the anti-discrimination directives via: a) comprehensive equalities policies, in terms of recruitment, employment and services; (b), the political members and organs of the EU bodies should be balanced in terms of the Article 13 groups.

(VI)   Ensuring Complementarity with Other Areas of EU Policy


calls on the Commission to indicate how it intends to integrate groups covered by the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the existing Directives on non-discrimination, given that they will be incorporated into the new Treaty;


recommends that for mainstreaming equality there must be mechanisms to ensure that equality issues and principles are given due regard in the formulation, administration and evaluation of all policies;


recommends that the Commission work closely with the CoR to help local and regional authorities draw up equalities action plans and submit reports on actions taken to the relevant equality bodies in the member states.

Brussels, 18 November 2004.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions


(1)  OJ C 226 du 8.8.2000, p. 1

(2)  OJ C 121 du 30.4.2004, p. 25