LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Happy 5th anniversary of the equal treatment directive proposal!

In the last five years no progress at all has been made in the EU to protect people against discrimination on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, disability and religion or belief.

Today, the Platform of European Social NGOs (Social Platform), representing 47 European federations and networks of non-governmental organisations active in the social sector, including ILGA-Europe, issued a statement to mark this anniversary.

In addition, Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe’s Executive Director, said:

“By marking the 5th anniversary of the Equal Treatment legislation proposal, we are sadly also marking the failure of EU Member States to protect millions of people from discrimination. We are very disappointed by the lack of leadership and commitment of EU Member States on such an important issue. We urge them to unblock this process promptly and adopt the directive. Five years of no progress sends a dangerous message that human rights and social justice are not a priority for the EU. This is not a message the EU should be sending at the time of such a deep economic crisis and growing political extremism, which is increasing the vulnerability of minority groups. The need for European legislation against discrimination has never been more pressing.”

Social Platform statement:

The European Commission proposed a progressive EU anti-discrimination law on the 2nd of July 2008, which would ban discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in all areas of life within EU competence (including education, housing, and access to goods and services) but since then EU member states have not been willing to come to an agreement. So far, EU law only protects against discrimination on such grounds in employment and occupation but not in other areas.

The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights states that the economic crisis has increased marginalisation and poverty and how it can have a detrimental effect on the full enjoyment of rights, including access to goods and services, housing, health and education[1]. A strong legal framework protecting Europeans against discrimination would stop the vicious cycle of social exclusion and poverty. If the directive had been adopted earlier, it could have mitigated the effects of the crisis in a number of areas.

The fact that no significant progress has been made in negotiations on this proposed legislation during the last five years is symptomatic of the ongoing difficulties of the European Union to deliver progress on human rights.

Because equality is both an obvious fundamental European value in itself and a component of inclusive growth, we urge:

§ the European Commission, in the last year of its mandate, and member states to show leadership and include the directive as a crucial tool to reach the EU 2020 Strategy headline targets by removing discriminatory barriers to access employment, education and social inclusion;

§ all EU member states to support and not undermine the Commission’s proposal and to ensure a swift adoption of a strong and ambitious anti-discrimination directive which also covers multiple discrimination by the Council and the EU;

§ the Lithuanian and Greek presidencies to take leadership and continue the constructive work done by the Irish Presidency.

[1]The European Union as a Community of values : safeguarding fundamental rights in time of crisis (FRA Annual report, 2013)