15.06.2006 Broad backing for non-discrimination measures
The European Parliament has strongly backed proposals put forward by Latvian MEP Tatjana Zdanoka to tackle discrimination. These include developing new EU legislation to deal specifically with discrimination and making the European Charter on Fundamental Rights legally binding.
There was also backing for positive action to tackle types of discrimination which are difficult to overcome by legislation alone (including the overhaul of recruitment policies and practices) and for setting targets to improve the representation of disadvantaged minorities. Members also backed a proposal to outlaw discrimination against same-sex couples (married or in a civil partnership) who want to exercise their right to freedom of movement in the EU.
Speaking from Strasbourg after the vote, Tatjana Zdanoka said:
"Today's result is an important step forward in the fight against discrimination in the European Union. I was particularly encouraged by the comments of Mr Spidla, the EU Social Affairs Commissioner, who made clear his support for real action to tackle discrimination.
Although the scope of the proposals was watered down by some MEPs who are driven by narrow and one-sided prejudices, the final result will be a major boost to anti-discrimination campaigners.
I welcome the measures already announced by the European Commission, but there is much more to do. Following today's vote we now expect them to bring forward - over the next twelve months - new legislation and measures to tackle discrimination.
This must include developing a new legislative tool incorporating all of the grounds for discrimination set out in Article 13 of the EC Treaty and as extensive in scope as the Race Equality directive of 2000. We also need to see the Charter on Fundamental Rights made legally binding across the EU, and positive action to help those minorities that are under represented in the workforce or other areas of society.=20
Next year has been designated as the European Year of Equal Opportunities. It's now up to the European Commission to make a real success of the opportunities available by bringing forward new legislation.
Ignorance of the multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual nature of modern European societies can lead to dangerous social tensions which we must work to avoid. Europe's ethnic, social and linguistic diversity is one of its greatest strengths which must be celebrated and encouraged if the EU is to succeed in improving the lives of Europe's citizens. I am pleased that the European Parliament has so strongly supported this view today."
Note - the European Parliament voted by 390 votes to 222 votes with 47 abstentions in favour of Tatjana Zdanoka's report on 'A framework strategy for non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all'. The package of measures calls on the European Commission to bring forward new and comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation before mid 2007.