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Non-discrimination and equal opportunities in the European Union

Non-discrimination and equal opportunities in the European Union



Communication (COM(2008) 420) — Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: A renewed commitment


  • It presents the approach of the European Union (EU) to
  • It seeks to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance to realise their potential.


Strengthening the fight against discrimination

  • This European Commission communication points out that fight against discrimination cannot be won by legislation alone. Nevertheless, effective and properly-enforced laws can play an important role in delivering changes in people’s attitudes and behaviour.
  • Here, the Commission has 2 important tasks to perform:

Strengthening policy tools for active promotion of equal opportunities

Complementing legal measures, the communication highlights the role of certain policy tools.

  • Stronger policy tools are needed if equal opportunities are to be promoted effectively. They include:
    • mainstreaming non-discrimination into all EU policies — including in particular employment, social inclusion, education and training policies. A guide has been published on socially responsible public procurement to raise awareness in EU countries of how to promote non-discrimination and equal opportunities through procurement policy and practice;
    • measuring discrimination and evaluating progress — the Commission is to explore whether the regular collection of statistics with EU countries on the extent and impact of discrimination and the creation of an EU-survey module on discrimination are feasible. It is also working with Equinet, the European network of equality bodies to develop a system for gathering information on complaints handled by these bodies;
    • positive action — EU law does not prevent EU countries from maintaining or adopting specific measures to prevent, or compensate for, disadvantages linked to discrimination on grounds where there is provision for protection. EU countries are urged to make use of all possibilities for positive action, in particular in access to education, employment, housing and health care;
    • awareness-raising and training activities for stakeholders — such as information campaigns to ensure employers, service providers and administrations are aware of their duties;
    • promoting the benefits of diversity at the workplace — legislation is more effective when coupled with progressive and innovative strategies implemented by employers to manage an increasingly diverse workforce. Initiatives include voluntary charters and cooperation between business, business schools and universities on diversity-related topics.
  • Dialogue on non-discrimination and equal opportunities involving all stakeholders and civil society is needed. Examples include the equality summits have been held on a regular basis to share knowledge and experiences.
  • Advancing the social inclusion of the Roma , Europe’s largest ethnic minority, is a policy priority that is receiving attention both at EU level and in EU countries. Each EU country has prepared a national Roma integration strategy and efforts are under way to fight discrimination and anti-Gypsyism. This is with a view to developing effective and inclusive cooperation mechanisms in the medium term involving civil society and national, regional and local authorities.



Respect for the shared values of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is enshrined in the EU’s founding treaties. The treaties recognise that every individual is of equal worth and thus should have fair access to the opportunities that life presents.

For more information, see:


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: A renewed commitment (COM(2008) 420 final, 2.7.2008)


Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin (OJ L 180, 19.7.2000, pp. 22-26)

Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, pp. 16-22)

Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services (OJ L 373, 21.12.2004, pp. 37-43)

Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law (OJ L 328, 6.12.2008, pp. 55-58)

Council Recommendation of 9 December 2013 on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States (OJ C 378, 24 December 2013, pp. 1-7)

Proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (COM(2008) 426 final, 2.7.2008)

last update 12.01.2017