5th Birthday EU Race Directive: Central Europe Does Not Comply
19 July 2005
ERRC Urges the European Commission to Redouble Efforts to Secure Race Equality
Budapest, Brussels. On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the official publication of the EU Race Directive, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) today submitted detailed comments on measures in five European countries to date to implement the principle of equal treatment, irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. The comments are timed to coincide with deadlines for EU Member States to provide the European Union with comprehensive information on efforts undertaken to date to secure equal treatment for persons facing the very serious harm of racial discrimination.
On 29 June 2000, the European Council of the European Union adopted Directive 43/2000 "implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin". The "Race Directive" as it has come to be called, was published in the official gazette of the European Union on 19 July 2000 and the rest is history; for the first time in Europe's history, laws banning racial discrimination in a range of sectoral fields were required throughout the continent. The Directive provided extensive details of the scope and content of laws banning racial discrimination. Deadlines were also set for transposition of the Directive's provisions into domestic law: 19 July 2003 for the fifteen Member States of the Union as it existed in 2000, and the date of accession for any countries joining the Union thereafter.
Under Article 17 of the Directive, "Member States shall communicate to the Commission by 19 July 2005, and every five years thereafter, all the information necessary for the Commission to draw up a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of this Directive."
Timed to coincide with this deadline for reporting, the ERRC today submitted detailed comments concerning transposition into domestic law of the requirements of the EU Race Directive of four EU Member States - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - as well as one EU candidate country - Romania - where concerns prevail that transposition has been partial, erroneous or not yet adequate to secure equal treatment in practice for all, irrespective of racial or ethnic origin. The ERRC submission to the Union institutions focuses in particular on the ability of individuals to realize the promise of equality embodied in the Directive. The document discusses in detail a number of issues arising in the five countries at issue, related to failures of justice where racial discrimination is concerned.
Speaking on the occasion of the Directives birthday, ERRC Acting Executive Director Claude Cahn said: "Czech parliamentarians have sabotaged efforts to approve a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. The Polish government has not yet seriously even tried to adopt one. In Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, positive moves by the legislature have been followed by inertia, incompetence or obstruction by implementing authorities. New laws in those countries have not yet made even the shallowest dent into a reality of pervasive racial exclusion, because the administration has yet to implement them well, where it has tried to implement these laws at all. These failures mean little change on the ground for several million Roma - the group most affected by the forces of racial hatred in Central and Eastern Europe today."
The full text of the ERRC submission to the European Commission is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2280
On 29 June 2000, the European Council of the European Union adopted Directive 43/2000 "implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin". The "Race Directive" as it has come to be called, was published in the official gazette of the European Union on 19 July 2000. For the first time in Europe's history, laws banning racial discrimination in a range of sectoral fields were required throughout the continent. The Directive provides extensive details of the scope and content of laws banning racial discrimination. Deadlines were also set for transposition of the Directive's provisions into domestic law: 19 July 2003 for the fifteen Member States of the Union as it existed in 2000, and the date of accession for any countries joining the Union thereafter.
In the five years since its adoption, the Directive has already changed forever the contours of European laws banning racial discrimination. The Directive exploded the confines of previous European-level anti-discrimination laws -- until then confined primarily to gender discrimination -- by banning racial discrimination not only in employment, but also in a range of other fields including education, housing, health care and social services. The Directive set out four distinct definitions of racial discrimination, and required that all be banned under domestic law:
- "Direct discrimination", taken to occur where one person is treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on grounds of racial or ethnic origin;
- "Indirect discrimination", taken to occur "where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of a racial or ethnic origin at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary";
- "Harassment": deemed to be discrimination "when an unwanted conduct related to racial or ethnic origin takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment";
- "An instruction to discriminate" against persons on grounds of racial or ethnic origin.
The Directive also bans "victimisation", meaning that Member States must adopt laws to protect individuals from any adverse treatment or adverse consequence as a reaction to a complaint or to proceedings aimed at enforcing compliance with the principle of equal treatment.
Among a number of key provisions, the Directive requires that where a complainant has succeeded in showing that racial discrimination may be presumed to have taken place, the burden of proof shifts to the respondent. In addition, the Directive requires that "effective, proportionate and dissuasive" sanctions be imposed on racial discriminators.
A summary by the ERRC of full requirements of laws banning racial discrimination under EU and related international law is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2277.