Strengthening the Role of Equality Bodies Across the EU: The Council Adopts Two Directives

On May 7th, a milestone in the fight against discrimination within the European Union occurred as the Council formally adopted two directives aimed at enhancing the role and effectiveness of equality bodies across member states.

Equality bodies, established to promote equal treatment, combat discrimination, and aid victims, will see their capabilities significantly bolstered under the new directives. These directives introduce EU-wide minimum requirements that ensure these bodies operate with enhanced competence and greater independence.

Key Provisions of the New Directives:

  1. Enhanced Competences: Equality bodies will have expanded authority to address discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age, and sexual orientation in employment, as well as sex-based discrimination in social security.
  2. Independence: There is now a legal mandate ensuring equality bodies remain free from external influences, allowing them to operate impartially and effectively.
  3. Resource Allocation: Member states are required to provide equality bodies with sufficient human, technical, and financial resources to fulfil their mandates.
  4. Consultation and Prevention: Public institutions must consult equality bodies on discrimination-related matters. Equality bodies are empowered to carry out preventive measures and promote equal treatment through positive action and mainstreaming equality.
  5. Increased Powers: These bodies are granted greater authority to conduct inquiries and engage in dispute resolution in line with national laws and practices.

The adoption of these directives is a crucial step towards harmonising the standards and operations of equality bodies across the EU, addressing the significant discrepancies that currently exist between member states.

Next Steps: Following the signing and publication in the EU’s Official Journal, member states will have two years to align their national legislation with the new directives.

Implications for the ATHENA Project: The directives are particularly significant for initiatives like the H2020 project ATHENA, coordinated by Consulta Europa, which aims to implement gender equality plans in research organisations across Europe. ATHENA focuses on eliminating barriers to the recruitment, retention, and career progression of female researchers and addressing gender imbalances in decision-making processes.

Michelle Perello, CEO at Consulta Europa and coordinator of the ATHENA Projects, expressed optimism about the directives: “We were all looking forward to the approval of these two directives, which will make the work of equality bodies more efficient and impactful. We hope now that member states will not delay too much in adopting and implementing them.”

For further details, visit the official press release: Strengthening the Role of Equality Bodies Across the EU: The Council Adopts Two Directives.

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