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Big step towards truly independent equality watchdogs in the EU


07 Nov 2023


Global Europe
Today, the European Parliament under the leadership of Socialists and Democrats has made a significant step towards a new EU law that will ensure truly independent and autonomous equality watchdogs in Europe, free from any political and financial interference. 
The committees on employment and women’s rights and gender equality agreed on the Parliament’s mandate for negotiations regarding the EU legislation on equality bodies* with EU member states. The Parliament will confirm this mandate at the plenary session later this month. The negotiations are likely to start soon afterwards, at the end of November.
The S&Ds are now calling for a swift negotiating process and the finalisation of this new law, which is long overdue.
Marc Angel, European Parliament’s rapporteur on the EU legislation on equality bodies in the employment committee, said:
“We have secured a strong mandate for negotiations with EU capitals. Our aim is to ensure complete independence and autonomy of equality bodies from any external or internal influence. In practice, this means that they cannot be set up within a ministry, a government body or any other body taking instructions from a government. This also means that all equality bodies should get an adequate budget and financial autonomy. However, we expect a fight with the member states. 
“Furthermore, we have strengthened the role of social partners, especially trade unions. We secured the respect of the autonomy, competences and prerogatives of social partners, as well as labour inspectorates and other enforcement bodies.
“We have managed to secure a number of other improvements as well. For example, equality bodies will have the right to act in court. In addition to their rights to act as a party in proceedings, they should also be able to initiate court proceedings in their own name when there is no individual complainant pursuing the case themselves, or to act in court proceedings when collective redress is used. Moreover, access to equality bodies will no longer be limited to persons with a legal status of a victim but to all persons that have experienced discrimination.”  
Carina Ohlsson, S&D negotiator on the EU legislation on equality bodies in the women’s rights and gender equality committee, added:
“This is a big step for women’s rights and gender equality. Gender mainstreaming, as a tool to reach equality between men and women in all their diversity, will now be a reality. Member states will have to effectively implement this approach in their national policies. Equality bodies will be responsible for collecting and making accessible gender disaggregated data and statistics. This way, they will contribute to a better understanding of the structural aspects of inequality, shifts in social attitudes and the existence of multiple and intersectional discrimination. The equality bodies will promote gender mainstreaming among public and private entities, as well as guide towards its implementation.
“In addition to this, our mandate clearly states that equality bodies have to strive for gender balance at all levels, including that of management.” 
Notes to editors:
National equality bodies are public organisations that promote equal treatment by providing independent assistance to victims of discrimination. They are legally required to do so in case of discrimination as defined under article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, including sex, race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, and disability. 
Equality bodies were first established by the Racial Equality Directive in 2000. Three subsequent equality directives followed in 2004, 2006 and 2010, in the field of goods and services, employment and self-employment. In 2018, The European Commission issued a recommendation to improve their independence and effectiveness. However, despite this recommendation and the existing legislation, challenges remained.
In 2022, the Commission proposed another directive on standards for equality bodies in the field of equal treatment and equal opportunities between women and men in matters of employment and occupation. Today’s agreement is the Parliament’s position on this proposal and its mandate for negotiations with EU member states.