Today: EU Ministers of Social Affairs to discuss “Anti-Discrimination Directive”

Justus Lipsius_0While citizens’ resistance is growing, Ministers of Social Affairs will today meet in Brussels to discuss possible new approaches to get the controversial “Anti-Discrimination Directive” adopted. Among the possible options, one is to drop the (potentially very cost-intensive) provisions to facilitate accessability of all buildings to people in wheelchairs. Another is to adopt the Directive in the form of an “enhanced co-operation”, i.e. some Member States could adopt it and would then be bound by it, whereas others could stay out. The question with “enhanced co-operation” is, however, whether any Member State can really have an interest in binding itself to such a measure at EU level, when it could adopt the same law at national level (and then repeal it later on, if it turns out that it produces undesirable effects).

The Council meeting, starting at 10.00, will be chaired by Mr Giuliano Poletti, Italy’s minister for Employment and Social Policy.

The Council’s Press Office has released the following statement:

EQUAL TREATMENT

Ministers will have a orientation debate on the equal treatment directive in order to identify issues preventing a consensual agreement. The directive is designed to extend protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation to areas
outside employment (15705/14 ADD 1 REV 1). Complementing existing EC legislation in this area, the proposed directive would prohibit discrimination on the above-mentioned grounds in the following areas: social protection, including social security and healthcare; education; and access to goods and services, including housing. 

The directive has been on the Council’s agenda since 2008. Extensive discussions and redrafting exercises in the Council working party had not led to the desired breakthrough. Calling for an open and serious discussion on possible ways forward, the Italian presidency also noted that the directive was seen as a priority by the new Commission.

While stressing that reaching unanimous agreement on the the preferred outcome, the presidency also believes, in the light of the long-standing impasse in the Council, that it is now necessary to explore all possible solutions, including the option of establishing enhanced cooperation between a group of willing member states in the area covered by the proposal.

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