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Anti-discrimination Directive



According to Article 13 of the European Treaty, the prevention and combating of all forms of discrimination is one of the EU’s fundamental goals. Whereas the EU had already provided legal protection against discrimination in access to the labour market, the EU has yet to complete the existing framework with measures fighting discrimination in areas such as social protection, social advantages and access to goods and services.

As such, on 2 July 2008, the European Commission proposed a directive to ban discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation in all areas of EU competence.

For access to the proposal, please click here.

On 2 April 2009, the European Parliament adopted the proposal, with certain amendments. You may find access to this document by clicking here.

Since then however, the proposal has been stuck at the first reading stage in the European Council, in Brussels. The law is currently being blocked by around 8 EU countries led by Germany. They argue that the fight against discrimination should remain a national competency, claiming that the EU treaty does not give Brussels the right to pass laws on social problems. 



Following the publication of the proposal in 2008, EASPD shortly responded with a position paper of their own, detailing both the positive and negative aspects of the proposal. 

You may find our position paper by clicking here.

Positive aspects of the proposed Directive

In our position paper on the Commission proposal, we generally believed that it marked  a significant step forward in successfully combating discrimination in all areas outside of the workplace. In particular, EASPD applauded the following: 

  • its category scope, covering the four grounds of disability, age, religion and sexual orientation
  • its wide prohibition of discrimination in areas such as social protection, social advantages, education and access to and supply of goods and services
  • recognition of the denial of reasonable accomodation as discrimination against people with disabilities
  • an anticipatory duty to ensure non-discriminatory access to people with disabilities
  • the guarantee of minimum requirements and that MS can introduce or maintain higher level of anti-discriminatory protection
  • a duty to establish an equal treatment body
  • the broad definition of discrimination, both direct and indirect

EASPD hopes that these significant improvements will be maintained in the final legislative text.

Areas of improvement to the proposed Directive

Yet, the paper also stressed that that only the full implementation of the principles enshrined in the UN CRPD into European legislation will be acceptable for the disability community. As such, we believe that the following areas should be improved to guarantee such implementation: 

  • a clear definition of multiple discrimination should be included
  • an improved statement regarding the provision of financial services, ensuring the protection of people with disabilities in those areas too, in accordance with the UN CRPD 
  • a definition of disability based on the definition provided in article 1 of the UN CRPD
  • clearer clauses on special education needs, mainstreaming education for children with disabilities and opportunities of life-long learning for all
  • a more specific definition of disproportionate burden to provide any real safeguard to people with disabilities in all circumstances
  • the extension of the accesiblity requirements to the goods themselves
  • a necessity for additional provisions regarding access to ICTs
  • the inclusion of provisions granting the right to acess support services for people with disabilities



Thomas Bignal, Policy & Communications Officer

+32 2 282 46 19