Equality Summit: Report

30 2008

Equality Summit: Report

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Brussels: The second Equality Summit, organised jointly by the French Presidency and the European Commission, was opened on Monday 29 September by Xavier Bertrand, the French Minister for Labour, Labour Relations, the Family and Solidarity, in his role as president of the Employment, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection Council (EPSSCO), and Vladimír Špidla, the European Commissioner for Employment. They were joined by Dzamila Stehlikova, the Czech Minister for Human Rights, Ethnic Minorities and Equality, and Claire Roumet, the Vice-Presidentof the Social Platform, representing the European NGOs working in the social sector, and by Louis Schweitzer, the President of the French High Authority to Fight Against Discrimination and For Equality (HALDE).

This summit was held in the context of the extension of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, organised in 2007, which was the occasion to give a new boost to the fight against discrimination and the promotion of equality. It also built on the momentum generated by the German, Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies in making Europeans more aware of their right to equal treatment and of the benefits of diversity.

These two days of discussions and debates allowed some points of consensus to be identified, which are included in the summit conclusions (in annex).

For their part, Xavier Bertrand and Vladimír Špidla emphasised the role that the European Union could play to advance the fight against discrimination in the Member States, pointing out the support of the treaties and Community directives in this field and underlining the value of this legislation. They also emphasised the capacity of national and European actors - be they associations and networks, equality bodies, local actors, social partners, or even the media - to publicise rights and policies with regard to combating discrimination and changing mentalities, thus ensuring the effective application of the principle of equal treatment in the daily life of Europe's citizens.

The debates also provided an opportunity to discuss the proposed directive, presented on 2 July 2008 by the European Commission, on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Xavier Bertrand and Vladimír Špidla emphasised that the adoption of this proposed directive would allow the continuation of the work begun ten years ago, i.e. since the introduction in the Community treaties in 1998 of a legal basis allowing the Member States, after consulting the European Parliament, to take the measures necessary to fight discrimination. They noted that this new step would be a strong sign of the European Union's commitment to the promotion of equality and the fight against discrimination. Xavier Bertrand also indicated that this proposed directive would be the subject of a policy debate at the next EPSSCO Council on 2 October in Luxembourg.

Xavier Bertrand and Vladimír Špidla called on the social partners to include the issue of discrimination in access to employment and in the workplace to the agenda for their discussions. After recalling the success in France, Germany and Belgium of the diversity charter launched on the initiative of enterprises, Xavier Bertrand and Vladimír Špidla asked European companies and their representatives to give a European dimension to this type of initiative.

Xavier Bertrand and Vladimír Špidla also expressed their hope that the results of all the work conducted during this summit would be taken on board in the debates of the next equality summit, which would be held under the Swedish Presidency in November 2009. They will remain particularly attentive to these problems in the context of the ongoing debates and discussions with regard to the reform of the social agenda, which should define Europe's ambitions in the social sphere for the next ten or fifteen years. This issue would be at the heart of the conference on ‘Emerging social issues in a changing Europe', which will be organised in Paris on 12 November next.

Source by Europe_

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