fifth person in the European Union is affected by discrimination or harassment due
to various reasons. There are many cases of discrimination based on sex, age, ethnic
origin, sexual orientation or religion throughout the EU. Many countries have
already amended their national laws, but there is still room for improvement.
Implications for social policy
problem is that workers affected by discrimination withdraw from their
professional and social environment, work less or can no longer work at all.
This results in considerable costs for the economy and for the health system.
are also those who put up with discrimination and do not report it out of a
sense of false shame. Although there is a general awareness among EU citizens of
the need to strengthen the fight against discrimination, it often remains
Social ministers discuss new policy direction
order to give the issue renewed momentum and political weight, the Finnish
Presidency initiated a debate between ministers at the last Council meeting in October 2019. The reason for
this is the European Commission’s proposal for a directive on ‘protection from discrimination beyond the workplace’ from
2008, which still has not been adopted.
the lead-up to the Council meeting, a questionnaire with three questions on the country situation was sent to the Member States as a basis for the discussion. The fact is that,
after eleven years and 20 Council Presidencies, there is still no political
consensus, as Article 19 of the TFEU requires unanimity in the Council and the approval
of the European Parliament.
National anti-discrimination legislation
majority of Member States consider that their existing national
anti-discrimination legislation is sufficient, but measures to combat
discrimination should be strengthened in the EU. Existing problems were discussed,
and ways for the EU to better tackle discrimination outside the workplace were
Implementation not in sight
several Member States have expressed concerns about the definition of legal
concepts in the current proposal and the broadness of its scope. The Commission
is also obliged, in the spirit of better regulation, to continue to take this
issue seriously and to act accordingly.
The Finnish Presidency will prepare a summary of the
debate in order to support the new Commission and the future Presidencies in
their anti-discrimination activities. The Member States were united in their
opposition to discrimination.