Anti-Discrimination Directive: MEPs want to restart discussions after â€śloss of momentumâ€ť (Europolitics)
Europolitics Tuesday 20 March 2012
Unblocking discussions about the Anti-Discrimination Directive, which have been at a standstill for the last three and a half years at the Council, was the aim of a public hearing organised, on 20 March, by the European Parliamentâ€™s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). The participants merely reiterated their support for this proposal, which aims to extend the legal protection offered against discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, to fields other than employment. Moreover, they called on the Council, blocked by a minority of member states led by Germany, to hasten to reach an agreement.
Pierre Baussand, Director of the Social Platform, said: â€śIt is urgent to act in favour of a new appeal instrument against certain discriminatory practices. To those member states that justify their opposition based on the subsequent costs, I ask: have you evaluated the cost of not investing?â€ť Baussand added that one in six Europeans has experienced discrimination. Reservations about the text, which must be approved unanimously by member states after it has gone through the consent procedure with the EP (Article 19 TFEU), are linked to the principle of subsidiarity, the principle of proportionality, the financial implications, and the legal certainty of the proposal.
Faced with these calls, the Danish EU Presidency was forced to admit its powerlessness. â€śWe are far from reaching an agreement. The real problem, on top of the reservations of a legal nature and reservations about the budget, is the lack of enthusiasm. For many member states this dossier is no longer a priority; we have lost momentum. [...] We hope to be able to make some progress on the provisions linked to age, but age is only one contentious technical provision among others,â€ť said the representative of the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs and Integration, Anne-Mette KjĂ¦r Hesselager. As for the Commission, it said hope should not be lost: â€śWe should work pragmatically and continue to work on technical provisions until a political agreement has been made in Council. We also need to keep the discussion open with the Council and with the national governments. The Commission is intent on taking part in this enterprise,â€ť said Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, the director responsible for equality at the Commissionâ€™s Directorate-General Justice. Ciobanu-Dordea added that the EU executive would not accept an unravelling of the proposal: â€śWe cannot limit ourselves to the smallest common denominator. It is a red line we will not crossâ€ť.
After the meeting, the EPâ€™s rapporteur, RaĂĽl Romeva i Rueda (Greens-EFA, Spain), urged the Council to swiftly and vigorously resume discussions â€śby meeting more often than two times per quarterâ€ť. He also encouraged MEPs to work on their respective governments, in particular the states with the most reservations, â€śsuch as Germany, Lithuania and the Czech Republicâ€ť. â€śI know we have lost the impetus. But less equality is no solution to the crisis. On the contrary, it is in contradiction with the founding texts of the EU.â€ť