EU employment and social affairs ministers have agreed their position on two proposals that will strengthen the independence and functioning of equality bodies in the EU, helping to prevent discrimination and better protect victims.
Equality bodies play a vital role in protecting EU citizens from discrimination. The two general approaches agreed today by the Council are important to ensure that national equality bodies have the powers, resources and independence to effectively fight discrimination.
Paulina Brandberg, Swedish Minister for Gender Equality and Working Life
Currently, all EU member states are required to set up national bodies to combat discrimination on grounds such as racial or ethnic origin and gender, yet the mandate and competences of these bodies vary from one member state to another.
The new rules will establish common EU-wide minimum requirements for equality bodies in a number of key areas. These include:
- enhanced competences for equality bodies to combat discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in the area of employment, and discrimination based on gender in the area of social security
- a legal requirement for equality bodies to be independent
- sufficient human, technical and financial resources
- a requirement for public institutions to consult equality bodies on matters related to discrimination and equal treatment
- increased powers to conduct inquiries and dispute resolution in discrimination cases
One of the general approaches agreed today will be negotiated under the ordinary legislative procedure and provides the upcoming Spanish presidency of the Council with a mandate to begin negotiations with the European Parliament, with a view to reaching a provisional agreement. Regarding the proposal negotiated under a special legislative procedure, the European Parliament will be requested to give its consent.
Equality bodies are public institutions that protect and provide assistance to victims of discrimination. The EU’s equality legislation stipulates that all member states must establish national equality bodies to deal with cases of discrimination on the grounds of sex, and racial or ethnic origin.
Under the current legislation on equality bodies, member states have a wide margin of discretion, leading to significant differences across the EU as regards the competences, independence, resources, accessibility and effectiveness of such bodies.
On 7 December 2022 the Commission published two proposals to strengthen equality bodies:
- a proposal for a directive of the Council and the European Parliament on standards for equality bodies in the field of equal treatment and equal opportunities between women and men in matters of employment and occupation, with Article 157 TFEU as the legal basis (ordinary legislative procedure)
- a proposal for a Council directive on standards for equality bodies in the field of equal treatment between persons irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin, equal treatment in the field of employment and occupation between persons irrespective of their religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, equal treatment between women and men in matters of social security and in the access to and supply of goods and services, with Article 19(1) TFEU as the legal basis (consent procedure)
Because the legislation that is being revised is based on two different legislative procedures, it was necessary to publish two Commission proposals, even though their content is substantively the same.