The issue of non discrimination was in the agenda of the meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO Council) this Thursday 24 October. EU Ministers discussed the Equal Treatment Directive proposed by the European Commission 10 years ago and how to overcome the deadlock in the negotiations at Council level. The objective of the directive proposal is to enlarge the legal protection against discrimination on the ground of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, currently covered in EU legislation only in the area of employment.
The present gaps in EU non-discrimination legislation results in an unacceptable ‘hierarchy’ of protected grounds of discrimination. This situation creates second-class citizens and is contrary to the EU’s commitments towards equality, as defined in European treaties and international human rights legislation. This is what we stated in our joint contribution, together with four other Equality NGOs, to the Working Party of the EPSCO Council organised on 7 October 2019.
Being protected against discrimination in employment is not enough to ensure freedom of movement for all, as the examples of dicrimination provided in our joint stalement demontrate. EU countries need to take action at European level to ensure protection against discrimination on all ground if we want to create more equal conditions and opportunities within the internal market.
In the examples regarding the ground of age, we point out the upper age limits that are found everywhere and directly impact the ability of older EU citizens to travel in the EU and participate as full citizens: e.g. of a job seeker to apply for work, an expert to participate in public debates, a learner to participate in adult training or a volunteer to be involved in activities in another EU member state. In some EU countries it is impossible to purchase travel insurance for someone above a certain age. Upper age limits continue to be widely spread in some countries in car rentals and access to financial services. Furthermore, in many countries older persons with disabilities are often excluded from disability benefits, including mobility allowances and personal assistance.