16 May 2000
By the Select Committee appointed to consider European
Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.
EU PROPOSALS TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION
|13536/99||Communication from the Commission on Certain Community Measures to Combat Discrimination
|13537/99||Proposal for a Council Decision Establishing a Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination (2001-2006)
|13540/99||Proposal for a Council Directive Establishing a General Framework for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation
||Proposal for a Council Directive Implementing the Principle of Equal Treatment between Persons Irrespective of Racial or Ethnic Origin
PART 1: INTRODUCTION
1. This Report examines four proposals-two Directives,
an Action Programme and a Communication-which represent the first
fruits of Article 13 of the EC Treaty, as amended by the 1997
Amsterdam Treaty. This Article, which came into effect in May
1999, states that,
Without prejudice to the
other provisions of this Treaty and within the limits of the powers
conferred by it upon the Community, the Council, acting unanimously
on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European
Parliament, may take appropriate action to combat discrimination
based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability,
age or sexual orientation.
Article 13 gave the Community for the first time
a specific legal basis for action to combat discrimination.
2. After wide consultation, the Commission presented
the proposals on 25 November 1999. The Commissioner for Employment
and Social Affairs, Anna Diamantopoulou, heralded them as "a
milestone in the construction of a Social Europe". She spoke
of the blight of discrimination, and said, "we want to see
a common level of protection against discrimination right across
the European Union". The proposals gave "a strong signal
about the ambition of the Community to promote a more equal society".
Early reports suggested that the proposals were unlikely to be
However, events in Austria seem to have created a sense of urgency
within the Council,
and the package was discussed ahead of schedule at the Social
Affairs Council on 13 March 2000. The Portuguese Presidency has
pressed for rapid progress, and it appears that agreement on the
Action Programme will be reached by June.
3. These proposals, if adopted in their present form,
would have an extensive impact on the United Kingdom's anti-discrimination
legislation, which at present covers only race, sex and disability
(and, in Northern Ireland, religion). There will be an equal or
greater impact on many other Member States. Sub-Committee F (Social
Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) of the European Union Committee
has therefore conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into the proposals,
focusing on the two draft Directives, though the proposed Action
Programme was also touched on. The Committee's call for evidence
raised broad policy issues. Are the proposals consistent with
subsidiarity and proportionality? Are the "minimum common
standards" of protection established by the proposed Directives
the most appropriate ones? Is the scope of the proposed Directives
satisfactory? Do the Directives contain significant omissions?
What will be the impact on other Member States and on enlargement?
In the course of the inquiry many more detailed issues, to do
with the drafting of the Directives, were raised by witnesses
and by the Committee; these issues figure prominently in the Summary
of Evidence and in the Committee's conclusions and recommendations.
4. The Members of Sub-Committee F who took part in
the inquiry are listed in Appendix 1. The specialist advisor for
the inquiry was Professor Evelyn Ellis, of Birmingham University,
and the Members would like to record their gratitude for the skill
with which she guided them through the complexities of this inquiry.
1 Commission press release, 25 November 1999. Back
See European Voice, 13-19 January 2000. Back
See "Austria fears spark talks on discrimination", European
Voice, 9-15 March 2000. Back