Equinet Chair Evelyn Collins met with a number of European stakeholders recently in order to update them on our work and discuss common areas of interest.
At the beginning of May, Chair Evelyn Collins, Executive Director Anne Gaspard and Policy and Membership Officer Jessica Machacova met with key contacts in the European Commission and European Parliament.
Work Life Balance
The first meeting was with the European Commission’s Manuela Geleng, Head of the Social Investment Strategy Unit at DG Employment & Social Affairs. We met her and her colleagues to discuss the proposal of the Work Life Balance Package launched by the European Commission in April 2017. In particular, they discussed the proposal of the Work Life Balance Directive and the role it would give to equality bodies. See more of Equinet’s work on this here. We look forward to working together with them to build the capacity of equality bodies in this area and create links with labour inspectorates.
Challenging context for Equality Bodies
They then met MEP Claude Moraes, member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee. They discussed the current challenging context for equality bodies and equality and non-discrimination more generally. They also discussed the need for standards for equality bodies in order to protect their independence. See more about Equinet’s call for standards for equality bodies here.
The following day, there were two meetings with different units of the European Commission. Ms. Collins, Ms.Gaspard and Tamás Kádár, Head of Legal and Policy met with Karen Vandekerckhove, the Head of the Gender Equality Unit , at DG Justice and Consumers. As a new Head of Unit, Ms. Vandekerckhove was presented with the highlights of Equinet’s work in 2017, especially focusing on gender equality. These include:
- combatting violence against women (see more about our project here) and the regional TAIEX workshop here
- an upcoming seminar on breaking the glass ceiling,
- a training based on the Equinet Handbook: How to build a case on equal pay, and
- a publication extending the learnings from our 2016 seminar Gender Equality in the Classroom
Freedom of Movement Directive
The next meeting was with colleagues working on the Freedom of Movement Directive in DG Employment & Social Affairs. Equinet published a discussion paper and organised a conference concerning this topic in 2015. The transposition deadline for the Directive was in May 2016 and a number of equality bodies have been appointed as bodies to promote equal treatment and to support Union workers and members of their family according to Article 4 of the Directive. With this meeting therefore, Equinet aimed to discuss the challenges faced by equality bodies in relation to this new strand of work and receive more information from the Commission on their planned work in this field and possible cooperation with Equinet. These challenges include:
- Ensuring that Article 4 bodies are provided with sufficient resources to fulfill all tasks to a high standard. The Commission’s monitoring of the Directive’s implementation can play a crucial role in ensuring this.
- Providing capacity building activities to Article 4 bodies. This could for instance take the form of:
- regular centralized information and updates on developments in the field of free movement,
- capacity-building events,
- providing centralized assistance with translation and interpretation needs.
Finally, Ms.Collins, Ms.Gaspard and Mr.Kádár met with Paul d’Auchamp, UN OHCHR Acting Regional Representative for Europe in order to discuss future cooperation between Equinet and the UNOHCHR. The UN OHCHR is currently developing its next strategic plan for 2018-2021 and they discussed some of the overriding issues they identified and that are expected to inform not only their work, but also Equinet’s upcoming strategic planning process starting next year. The issues discussed included the shrinking space for equality bodies, civil society, NHRIs, or even the media; the challenge of welcoming and including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in European societies; and the rising levels of inequality, populism and extremism.