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2007: European Year of Equal Opportunities for All

EU Member States have to pass from words to deeds

, by Translated by Peter Matjašič, Laurent Bonsang

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Each year the European Union (EU) chooses a particular topic which touches upon the concerns and expectations of Europeans. The year 2007 has been proclaimed the European year of equal opportunities for all.

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The question of the fight against discrimination in all its forms is an essential part of the priorities of the Union’s policies. It is based in the treaties, in particular in Article 3-2 of the Treaty establishing the European Community on the equality between men and women [1] and Article 13 on the measures necessary to fight any discrimination, which the Constitutional Treaty resumes as a “horizontal” clause in its Article III-118.

In other words, the Constitutional Treaty makes it obligatory to take account of the fight against discrimination in all the policies of the Union and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (Article 21 resumed as Article II-81 in the Constitutional Treaty).

On the level of European legislation, two directives relate to the fight against discrimination:

• Directive 2000/43/EC of June 29, 2000 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment of people whatever their racial or ethnic origin • Directive 2000/78/EC of November 27, 2000 establishing a general framework for the equal treatment of employment work.

In addition, the EU finances projects, organisations, and development and research programmes related to the question of the fight against discrimination. Among the interesting sites, let us quote www.stop-discrimination.info which was created by the European Commission and is devoted to the fight against discrimination.

On the level of the Council of Europe, the additional Protocol with the European Social Charter signed on May 5, 1988 in Strasbourg and came into effect on September 4, 1992 adds to the rights guaranteed by the European Social Charter [2] the right to equal treatment and equal opportunity in employment and profession without discrimination based on gender.

Lastly, the revised European Social Charter signed on May 3, 1996 that came into effect on July 1, 1999 joins together in only one instrument the rights already guaranteed by the Social Charter and its Additional Protocol and proceeds to amendments and additions of new rights.

For the subject which concerns us, among the new rights contained in the revised European Social Charter is the right of workers having family responsibilities to equal treatment and equal opportunity; as for the amendments they concern:

• the reinforcement of the principle of non-discrimination

• the improvement of the equality of women/men in all covered fields

• a better protection of maternity and social protection of mothers and a better protection of handicapped people.

A point on the ratifications

On the level of the 27 Member States of the EU, the situation compared to the revised European Social Charter is as follows:

15 ratified it:

• Belgium, except the article on the right of workers having family responsibilities to equal opportunity and equal treatment

• Bulgaria, except the articles on the right of handicapped people to autonomy, social integration and participation in the life of the community and on the right of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance; it partially ratified the article on the right of workers having family responsibilities to equal treatment and equal opportunity

• Cyprus, except the article on the right to an equitable remuneration; it partially ratified the article on the right of workers having family responsibilities to equal treatment and equal opportunity

• Estonia

• Finland

• France

• Ireland

• Italy

• Lithuania, which partially ratified the article on the right of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance

• Malta, except the article on the right of migrant workers and their families to protection and assistance; it partially ratified the article on the right of workers having family responsibilities to equal treatment and equal opportunity

• the Netherlands

• Portugal

• Romania, which partially ratified the article on the right of handicapped people to autonomy, social integration and participation in the life of the community; the article on the right of migrant workers and their families to protection and the assistance and the article on the right of workers having family responsibilities to equal opportunity and equal treatment

• Slovenia

• Sweden

10 signed it but did not ratify it to date:

• Austria

• Czech Republic

• Denmark

• Greece

• Hungary

• Luxembourg

• Poland

• Slovakia

• Spain

• the United Kingdom

2 did not sign it:

• Germany

• Latvia

For the 12 Member States which did not ratify the revised European Social Charter, the situation compared to the Additional Protocol is as follows:
- 6 ratified it: Denmark, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain
- 4 signed it but did not ratify it: Austria, Germany, Latvia and Luxembourg
- 2 did not sign it: Poland and the United Kingdom

The year 2007 could be the occasion when the Member States of the EU which did not ratify or partially did not ratify the European Social Charter revise their stance and pass from words to actions…

Difference between signature and ratification:

The signature is an act, which one could qualify as “intention”, while ratification on the other hand means that the country having ratified the text in question adheres to the text. Nevertheless, sometimes the possibility exist that the act of ratification is accompanied by so-called declarations. For example in the present case, where certain countries having ratified the revised European Social Charter decided to limit their application of the text ratified to certain provisions and not to their unit (they can return later on the contents of their declarations and in this case to regard itself from now on as committed by such or such article).

The ratification of a text engages the country in question to respect the provisions of the ratified act (with, if necessary, the reserves indicated in declarations) and to implement them.

See online : 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All - Welcome

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Image: Logo of the European year of equal opportunities for all, English version

Footnotes

[1Resumed as Article III-116 of the Constitutional Treaty

[2Signed on October 18, 1961 in Turin and entered into force on February 26, 1965.

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