Equality and non-discrimination constitute a basic and general principle relating to the protection of human rights of all persons. It is an indivisible part of international human rights law, binding on all Member States of the European Union and the European Union itself, founded on the principles of democracy, respect of human rights and the rule of law.

Despite this fact, the discrimination of people with disabilities remains a daily reality in Europe, ranging from more visible forms (such as segregated education and denial of employment opportunities) to more subtle forms (such as imposition of physical, psychological and social barriers), resulting in social exclusion of persons with disabilities.

Over the past 20 years, protecting the rights of disabled people all over Europe has been EDF’s number one priority and objective.

Equal Treatment Directive in employment and vocational training

The first significant step towards non-discrimination legislation was taken in 1997, when the European Union governments unanimously agreed to introduce a new article, now known as Article 13 into the EU Treaties. This Article now serves as a legal basis of all European non-discrimination legislation.

In 2000, based on Article 13, the EU directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation was adopted, protecting the rights of disabled people in the field of employment and training. The EDF has produced a report on the implementation process of the Employment Directive.

The European Commission made public in the beginning of July 2008 its proposal for a directive on non discrimination outside employment. The Commission proposal is based on and covers all grounds of the Treaty of Amsterdam Art. 13, i.e. “religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”. A separate article (Art. 4) focuses on the equal treatment of persons with disabilities.

EDF, however, has concerns in several important areas which are not covered or barely covered by the Directive.

Equal Treatment Directive in employment and vocational training

EDF has worked in the past years with other antidiscrimination networks to galvanize support for the proposed Equal Treatment Directive that would extent the protection against discrimination on the basis of disability, age, sexual orientation and religion outside the employment field. This Proposed Directive has been on the table of the Council of the European Union since 2008. EDF has been working also with Civil Society in Germany, where the proposed Equal Treatment Directive is blocked. The result is a common platform- the Equality for All Alliance, which enables us to voice our support to the Equal Treatment Directive towards the Council of the EU, European Parliament and public. This strong common voice will be a support to the next steps of the Proposed Directive. It has a strong multiplier effect, ensuring that all networks are speaking out for equal treatment for all discriminated groups.

Equality for All again urges all EU governments to show unanimous leadership and adopt a strong Equal Treatment Directive protecting all people in their daily lives as soon as possible!

Download the Equality for All full statement here