Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Human Rights: Euro MPs split over too much hard work, anti-discrimination laws

For almost a decade a series of laws have protected Europe's workers from discrimination on the basis of age, disability, sexuality or religious beliefs. Now on Wednesday MEPs will vote on extending such anti-discrimination to areas such as schools, hospitals and housing provision. Some Members however, notably in the right of centre EPP-ED group, think this is regulation too far and will lead to more red tape and expense for businesses.

Dutch Green Kathalijne Buitenweg has acted as Parliament's rapporteur on the issue. She supports new EU wide measures telling us that: "This gaping hole in the legislation includes vital services such as education, healthcare and housing and needs to be closed."

She went on to give the example that "a black lesbian woman would be legally protected against discrimination if it was on the grounds of her race or gender, but not on the basis of her sexual orientation".

Although a majority of Members of the Civil Liberties Committee have backed the proposal there is still no consensus in that cross party committee or the wider House.

Fear of "additional red-tape"

In particular the Christian Democrats are concerned. German Member Manfred Weber coordinates civil liberties issues for the EPP-ED group. He explained: "The EPP-ED group militates against any kind of discrimination. Nevertheless, we fear the additional red-tape which would be generated by this new directive. Many of its regulations are not favourable to all parties involved, including disabled people."

Supporters of the measure are hoping a recent Eurobarometer poll which showed 15% of people across the EU had suffered discrimination in the last year will boost their case.

The full European Parliament will consider the proposed directive on Thursday 2 April when Members meet in Brussels for a two day mini plenary.

In this area the Parliament has consultation powers. To become binding Europe-wide this directive would need unanimous backing amongst EU Ministers in the Council.

Source: European Parliament
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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