Equality in Europe

Equality in Europe


This section aims to provide an overview of the main actors, legislative and policy frameworks, as well as current policy initiatives in the field of equality and non-discrimination in Europe.

  • Actors
  • Legislative framework
  • Policy framework
  • Current policy initiatives

    Equinet also aims to support potential victims of discrimination by providing them with the contact details of the national equality bodies in their country of residence. These institutions are best adapted to handle individual cases of discrimination and the most likely to be able to help a potential victim of discrimination, or to redirect him/her to an appropriate body.
  • More information about this can be found here./]
Have you been treated unfairly?

Have you been treated unfairly?


Equinet is a European network, supporting and assisting national equality bodies in Europe, but lacks any competence or power to investigate or in any other way deal with individual cases of discrimination.

If you consider that you have been a victim or a witness of an act of discrimination we would suggest that you contact the National Equality Body in your country of residence. EU anti-discrimination legislation provides that each Member State shall have (at least) one such equality body with the power to, among other, give independent assistance to victims of discrimination. The equality bodies are specialised authorities whose staff are trained and experienced to handle cases of discrimination.

The possibilities of each equality body to help victims depend on the national legislation of each State, but they can include, for instance:

  • Providing legal advice and consultation;
  • Assisting or representing victims of discrimination in Court;
  • Mediating or negotiating settlements between the alleged perpetrator and the victim to find solutions which are acceptable to both parties without going to Court;
  • Bringing cases to Court in their own name, including in absence of an identifiable victim (for instance in the case of a discriminatory employment advertisement);
  • In some countries the national equality body acts as a court itself, with the power to adopt legally binding decisions regarding individual cases of discrimination.

The national equality body of your State of residence is therefore best adapted to handle individual cases of discrimination and the most likely to be able to help you, or to redirect you.

EQUINET is a network regrouping these national equality bodies, and you will find all necessary contact information for them here./]

Current Policy Initiatives

Current policy initiatives


**For Diversity Against Discrimination

This European Commission information campaign works to raise awareness of discrimination, promote diversity and increase understanding of EU anti-discrimination legislation. It is active in all Member States through different projects aimed at the general public as well as stakeholders such as employers and people working in the field of equality. The campaign focuses on the five grounds of discrimination covered by the Framework employment directive (age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief) and the Race and ethnic origin directive.

**European Year of active ageing and solidarity between generations 2012

2012 has been proclaimed European year of active ageing and solidarity between generations, aiming at raising awareness that older people can make important contributions to society, whether at home, at work or in the community. It also intends to encourage policymakers and other stakeholders to take action at all levels, creating better opportunities for active ageing and strengthening solidarity between the generations.

**European Disability Strategy 2010-2020

The European disability strategy is a framework adopted by the European Commission in 2010, with the main purpose to enable people with disabilities to fully enjoy their rights. The strategy covers three main priorities: finding and keeping jobs; education for all and living independently, with the long-term focus of empowering people with disabilities, enabling them to participate fully in society and improve their quality of life, removing the barriers they encounter in their everyday lives.

**European Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010-2015

The European Commission adopted its five-year framework for gender equality in 2010, with the aim to support the promotion of gender equality in the implementation of all aspects and flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy. This framework defines a series of actions to be taken by the Commission around five main priorities: equal economic independence; equal pay; equality in decision-making; tackling gender violence and promoting equality beyond the EU.

**An EU Framework for National Roma Integration strategies up to 2020

In April 2011 the European Commission adopted a communication on a framework for national Roma integration strategies, encouraging each Member States, in proportion to the size of its Roma population, to adopt or further develop a comprehensive approach to Roma integration, endorsing a certain number of specific goals. These goals are set around four priority areas: access to education, employment, healthcare and housing. In May 2012 the Commission adopted a communication assessing the national strategies adopted and implemented so far.

**Surveys on Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Persons

Between 2011 and 2013 the EU Fundamental Rights Agency will launch and publish two surveys regarding equality for LGBT persons, one on discrimination against and victimisation of LGBT people, and the other on public bodies and service providers.

You can access the first ever EU-wide survey on the discrimination experiences of LGBT people, recently launched by the FRA, by clicking here./]

Policy Framework

Policy Framework


**Europe 2020 Strategy

Europe 2020 is the EU’s growth strategy for 2010-2020, aiming at making the EU a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy with high levels of productivity, employment and social cohesion. To reach this aim, the EU has set objectives in five areas, in which each Member State has adopted its own national targets: employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy.

In particular in the area of social inclusion, the Europe 2020 strategy includes measures on equality and non-discrimination mainly within the flagship initiatives “An agenda for new skills and jobs” and “A European platform against poverty”.

**PROGRESS (Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity) 2007-2013

The PROGRESS programme was established to support financially the implementation of the objectives of the EU in employment, social inclusion and protection, working conditions, anti-discrimination and gender equality. The programme is a financial instrument supporting the development and coordination of EU policy in these areas, and helps contributing to the establishment of the Europe 2020 Strategy./]

Legislative Framework

Legislative framework

[/On a European level there are two different legislative frameworks regarding equality and non-discrimination law, that of the EU (EU non-discrimination directives) and that of the Council of Europe (European Convention of Human Rights, ECHR). There are also United Nations conventions that make up the broader international legislative framework in the field./]




European Union

**European Commission

Since 1 January 2011 the Directorate-General for Justice of the European Commission is responsible for the coordination and promotion of anti-discrimination policy developments in all areas where the EU has competence and on all grounds of discrimination. This includes for instance the promotion of awareness of gender equality and non-discrimination, as well as the coordination of policy developments regarding the social and economic inclusion of the Roma.

DG Justice is divided into four Directorates, with the Directorate on Equality being divided into four Units: Equal treatment legislation; Gender equality; Rights of persons with disabilities; and Non-discrimination policies and Roma coordination.

**European Parliament

As legislator of the EU, the Parliament is involved in the work on equality and non-discrimination in different ways, in particular through its committees on Women’s rights and gender equality (FEMM); Civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE) and Employment and social affairs (EMPL). Each committee is composed of a certain number of Members of the Parliament and is responsible for the preparatory work for the plenary sessions, adopting legislative proposals and own-initiative reports.

There are also several informal “intergroups” working on different areas linked to equality and non-discrimination, for instance Disability; Traditional minorities; LGBT rights; Anti-racism and diversity; Youth issues and Ageing and intergenerational solidarity.

**European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)

The FRA is an advisory body of the European Union established in 2007 and based in Vienna, Austria. Its mission is to help to ensure that fundamental rights of people living in the EU are protected, by collecting evidence about the situation of fundamental rights across the European Union and providing advice, based on evidence, about how to improve the situation. The FRA also informs people about their fundamental rights.

The Agency focuses on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU and its 28 Member States. Candidate countries and countries which have concluded a stabilisation and association agreement with the EU can be invited to participate following a special procedure.

**European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)

EIGE is a European agency which supports the EU and its Member States in their efforts to promote gender equality, to fight discrimination based on sex and to raise awareness about gender equality issues.

Its tasks are to collect and analyse comparable data on gender issues, to develop methodological tools, in particular for the integration of the gender dimension in all policy areas, to facilitate the exchange of best practices and dialogue among stakeholders, and to raise awareness among EU citizens.

**Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

The mission of the European Court of Justice is to ensure that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Treaties. This includes EU legislation on equality and non-discrimination, and the case law of the Court can therefore have an important impact on the development of this legislation on the European as well as national level.

**European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman is an independent and impartial administrative body with a mission to hold the EU administration accountable for its actions. The Ombudsman receives and investigates complaints of maladministration in EU institutions and bodies, such as lack of respect for fundamental rights, legal rules or principles, or the principles of good administration, including discrimination. Complaints can be lodged by citizens or residents of the EU, as well as businesses, associations or other bodies with a registered office in the EU. The Ombudsman is part of the European Network of Ombudsmen, which brings together national and regional ombudsmen in the Member States of the EU as well as similar bodies.

Council of Europe

**Commissioner for Human Rights

The Commissioner for human rights is an independent, non-judicial institution of the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of, and respect for, human rights in the 47 member States. Focusing on encouraging reform measures to achieve tangible improvement in the area of human rights promotion and protection, the Commissioner can draw conclusions and take initiatives regarding human rights violations. Nils Muižnieks is Commissioner for Human Rights since April 2012, and sets as his priority to protect and promote the human rights of vulnerable groups of people such as children and elderly, persons with disabilities, women and minorities.

**European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, citizenship, colour, religion and language, as well as xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance. ECRI also prepares reports and issues recommendations to member States.

**European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

The European Court of Human Rights is an international court set up in 1959. It rules on individual or State applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1998 it has sat as a full-time court and individuals can apply to it directly.

In almost fifty years the Court has delivered more than 10,000 judgments. These are binding on the countries concerned and have led governments to alter their legislation and administrative practice in a wide range of areas. The Court’s case-law makes the Convention a powerful living instrument for meeting new challenges and consolidating the rule of law and democracy in Europe.

Other actors

**Regional office (Europe) of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The regional office for Europe represents the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as the principal UN official in charge of the promotion and protection of human rights in Europe. The regional office seeks to integrate the UN’s human rights standards and perspective into EU-wide policies, legislation and implementation measures, helping to address human rights challenges in Europe, as well as in external EU policies and activities.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs)

In several European countries apart from national equality bodies there are also National human rights institutions dealing with human rights issues, often including in one way or another equality and non-discrimination. On a European level they are regrouped in the European Group of NHRIs, which is currently chaired by the Scottish Human Rights Commission./]