There have been a range of important events taking place at in Brussels over the past few weeks, focusing on democracy in the EU, being black in Europe, legal developments at EU level and tackling discrimination against Muslims in the EU. Equinet was there, representing the expert voice of equality bodies to advance equality in Europe.
2018 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights: Democracy in the EU
Brussels, 26-27 November 2018: The theme of the 2018 colloquium was “Democracy in the EU”. The colloquium reaffirmed that Democracy is a central value common to the European Union and all its Member States, and looked at how to renew democratic engagement within the European Union and the European societies.
Equinet Chair Tena Šimonović Einwalter made an impulse statement during a session on “Resilient and inclusive democratic societies – Supporting broad participation and representation in democratic societies”. She looked at the underrepresentation of women and minorities in politics, and outlined what steps can be taken to mitigate the absence of diversity in the political sphere. She also highlighted the negative effect that hate speech can have by silencing freedom of speech and putting people off engaging in discussions due to harsh tone and language. Since hate speech can silence some individuals and groups, it can therefore affect public/political debate by further marginalizing ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTI people and women. Regulating and preventing hate speech can enable fairer and stronger political debates, where every member of society (including the most marginalised) are represented and are able to voice their opinion.
Being Black in the EU
Brussels, 28 November 2018: People of African descent (PAD) across the EU regularly face racial discrimination, racist crime, racial profiling and social exclusion. The policy implications of these experiences were discussed at the public launch of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ report on Being Black in the EU. It was hosted by Cecile Kyenge MEP, Malin Bjork MEP and the European Parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI).
Equinet Chair Tena Šimonović Einwalter highlighted equality bodies’ awareness of the worrying discrimination faced by PADs, which is corroborated by the findings of this FRA report showing discrimination of PADs in various fields of life (employment, housing, education, harassment, ethnic profiling by police). Good data is an important support for equality bodies to raise awareness on this issue, yet the report also shows serious under-reporting. More needs to be done to gain the trust of PADs and other people facing discrimination so that they are willing to make official complaints to equality bodies. Equality bodies have great potential to promote the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin, but in order to fulfill their potential, they must be strengthened and empowered.This could be done with the effective implementation of the new European Commission Recommendation on standards for equality bodies. Civil society organisations representing PADs also need to be strengthened, and we must all pool our resources and cooperate better together to combat discrimination of Black people in Europe.
Legal seminar on non-discrimination and gender equality: Equality Bodies making a difference
Brussels, 30 November 2018: The annual legal seminar organised by the European equality law network focused on a number of different and important topics this year: Update on European case law, Trans and intersex equality rights, The United Nations’ and the EU’s approach to disability equality, Family related leave: enforcement issues, Prohibition of harassment as tool to tackle hate speech and Equality Bodies making a difference.
Focusing on equality bodies, the European equality law network presented their thematic report ”Equality bodies making a difference” which presents and analyse the current spectrum, situation, operation, and impact of these equality bodies. Participants were invited to discuss key issues emerging in relating to the independence, effectiveness, and accessibility of equality bodies and how these might now be addressed to secure their future impact.
Equinet Board member and Head of the Division of Equal Treatment for the Public Defender of Rights (Czech Republic), Petr Polák and Equinet Executive Director, Anne Gaspard presented Equinet’s work on standards for equality, highlighted the importance of the European Commission’s recent Recommendation on Standards for Equality Bodies, and the important next steps to take implementation on this forward in a meaningful way.
Tackling intolerance and discrimination against Muslims in the EU
Brussels, 3 December 2018 – The Commission hosted a high level conference on tackling intolerance and discrimination against Muslims in the EU. The conference gathered over 100 representatives of national authorities, civil society, academia, the religious community, EU agencies and international organisations. By sharing good practices, the aim of the event was to identify key actions at all levels to address intolerance, racism and discrimination against Muslims in the coming years.
Faith in Equality: Religion and Belief in Europe (2017)Tamás Kádár, Equinet’s Head of Policy and Legal, presented the findings of Equinet’s recent Report “Faith in Equality: Religion and Belief in Europe”. While the report looks at discrimination based on all forms of religion and belief in Europe, it holds very important lessons for this topic given the type, frequency and gravity of discrimination against Muslims reported. Altogether 22 out of 43 cases in the employment chapter concern Muslim complainants, with certain types of cases disproportionately affecting Muslim workers and candidates, namely on headgear and religious symbols and opting out of certain work tasks. The report also looks at cases of discrimination in education, provision of goods and services, manifesting religion and belief in public, and public administration and state functions.
The FRA presented its dedicated database on anti-Muslim hatred, containing recent surveys, case laws and reports.