It was a major accomplishment to prohibit discrimination in employment in the European Union(1), followed by the ban on discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin(2). The 28 have now all implemented in national law these two anti-discrimination directives adopted in 2000. Implementation on the ground leaves room for improvement, however, notes the European Commission in a report, published on 17 January.
To start, many Europeans are unaware of their basic rights, including the prohibition of discrimination in the hiring process, which is prompting some countries to test the use of anonymous CVs.
There is a real lack of statistics on cases of discrimination, which contributes to the sense of impunity and inertia in some quarters. This also poses a problem for gender equality, not covered by the directives because "if member states do not collect data according to sex, they will not be able to detect whether women rather than men are victims of certain types of discrimination," reads the report.
In practice, the texts have been breached repeatedly - infringement proceedings have been brought against 25 member states - as evidenced by the recent cases of judges being forced to retire in Hungary and accusations of age-based discrimination in the civil service in Greece. The Czech Republic is also under fire for its lack of protection of the disabled.
These two pieces of legislation are also proving ineffective against "multiple discrimination" combining, for example, grounds of ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability or age, of which women are more often victim.
KEY PROPOSAL STALLED
Closing gaps in the law is one of the aims of the 2008 draft directive that would ban all discrimination in areas other than employment, such as social protection, including social security and health care, social benefits, education and access to goods and services, including housing.
It would be illegal, for example, for a hotel to turn down a homosexual couple or for a shop to refuse to serve a Muslim customer. Recent discussions in the Council of Ministers have tended to limit the text to education and social protection, however, establishing a level of protection similar to what exists for discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin. Germany is still opposed, while Lithuania, Malta and the Czech Republic are sceptical.
"We are a long way from agreement," noted, in March 2012, the representative of Denmark's Ministry for Social Affairs and...