Commissioner Dalli speaking at the online conference “Equality 2020” organised by Equinet

 

Dear Colleagues,

I am grateful to the Council of the EU, its Croatian Presidency as well as to Equinet for the support towards the realisation of this virtual event.

We are strongly united in our work and ambition for a more equal Europe despite the physical distance.

I also want to warmly thank all the panellists for having shared with us their concerns and ideas on the future of equality.

Today, we have a good reason to celebrate: 20 years ago, the Racial Equality Directive established both

- a framework to fight racial and ethnic discrimination, as well as

- the equality body framework across the EU.

 

This instrument has considerably advanced equality in Europe. Not only did its adoption leed to important national legislative changes, it also paved the way for ground-breaking institutional reforms. The same goes for the Commission’s Recommendation on Standards for Equality Bodies adopted in 2018, which aims to support the work of equality bodies.

In this context, I am pleased to inform you that the Commission plans to issue a report of the application of the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive, which will also zoom in on the implementation of the Recommendation on Standards for Equality Bodies.

The input of Member States and relevant stakeholders will be essential to feed in the report.

I thank Equinet and the national equality bodies for their recent publication on the perspective from the work of equality bodies on this issue.

It will be very helpful for our work.

The equality bodies are doing essential work in combating discrimination.

By offering support to victims and by doing research and advocacy work, equality bodies make sure EU equality directives and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights become a reality in people’s lives.

I was therefore particularly pleased to see among today’s panellist the French Defender of Rigths, Mr. Toubon, and the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Bodnar.

The courageous effort you are putting into your work is impressive.

I have taken note of the valuable messages of all the panellists and will put them to use in defining our future work on equality, not least towards the strengthening of equality bodies.

Much work remains ahead of us.

This morning we heard Mr. O’Flaherty sharing the FRA data on the state of equality.

To add to this, the 2019 Eurobarometer on discrimination in the EU published by the Commission shows that at EU level, almost six in ten Europeans think discrimination based on ethnic origin, and particularly against Roma, is widespread in their country.

This is unacceptable and we must make sure these persistent problems are addressed.

This urge is greater than ever.  

The Coronavirus pandemic has shown us how the most vulnerable suffer more during a crisis.

It was particularly worrying to see that persons of certain ethnic origins have been presented as public threats or have been used as scapegoats, accentuating fear and hate against them.

We must publicly condemn, act against and sanction such racist acts.

We responded to this crisis in a way that puts equality high on the agenda.

Had we not done this, the health crisis will not only trigger an economic crisis but a social crisis, too.

It is now, more than ever, that the EU should show its resilience and ensure a response that does not leave anyone behind.

And we are moving ahead with this plan.

Last April, together with Commissioners Kyriakides and Schmit, I sent a letter to the relevant Ministers in each Member State emphasising the need for specific measures for vulnerable groups in the context of the coronavirus crisis.

Member States should ensure that Coronavirus response measures target people in need, including marginalised Roma communities, so they do not carry a disproportionate burden of the pandemic and do not suffer from additional exclusion, poverty, hate and discrimination.

I want to assure you that an intense dialogue is ongoing with Member States and civil society organisations on how to address better these groups’ specific needs.

The recently shared Equinet Recommendations on an equality compliant response to the crisis, are a very welcome support to this dialogue.

Covid-19 is not the only crisis we are experiencing.

The death of George Floyd has become a symbol of how discrimination and racism persist in our societies.

The BlackLivesMatter movement, mobilising so many, shows this is not a sudden crisis, it shows how deeply rooted inequalities and racism are.

Last week, the EU College of Commissioners held an important structured debate on racism highlighting the need to build a Europe that is more equal, humane and fair.

Following these debates, I shall be leading on an Action Plan to address racial discrimination.

All challenges Europe is facing today must drive us in our actions and goals.

They must nourish our belief that we can do better.

One important file on which I believe we can do better is the proposal for the horizontal Equal Treatment Directive.

The racial equality directive that we are celebrating today is very wide in scope.

It offers protection in various areas of life.

We should have the same comprehensive EU protection for the discriminations based on religion or belief, sexual orientation, age and disability

In 2008, the Commission aimed to fill this gap by proposing, a directive offering protection against discrimination based on all grounds beyond employment.

It is a failure for Europe to not have this directive in place after 12 years.

We need to move forward.

I haven’t given up on the current proposal and we are closely working with the Council and upcoming Presidencies to explore all possible options in order to reach an agreement.

On a positive note, I want to touch on some other specific initiatives that will define our future work.

This year we launched the first Strategy of our Union of Equality.

The Gender Equality Strategy presents policy objectives and actions to make significant progress by 2025 towards a gender-equal Europe.

We are also preparing an ambitious post-2020 Strategic EU Framework for Roma equality, inclusion and participation up to 2030.

It has a strong focus on the fight against discrimination and antigypsyism, to complement the focus on promoting social inclusion of Roma people.

The strategic framework also aims to promote Roma participation by empowerment, coorperation and building trust.

The launch of this Framework will take place on 12 October 2020 during a German Presidency event.

A Disability Strategy and an LGBTI+ Equality Strategy are also in the pipeline.

In addition, 2020 is a crucial year when it comes to ensuring that new technologies make our lives better while fully respecting equality and non-discrimination.

On 19 February 2020, the Commission published a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence setting out a framework for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence.

In this context, I very much welcome the recent publication by Equinet on Equal Artificial Intelligence.

This report offers support in ensuring a European approach to AI that respects and promotes equality for all.

The Commission will continue to work closely with the Member States and civil society in the High Level Group on Non-Discrimination, Equality and Diversity.

Here, equality data collection and the supporting role of national equality bodies will also remain among our top priorities.

Also our collaboration within the EU High Level Group on combating racism and xenophobia and other forms of intolerance will continue, for instance to ensure the effective application of the rules against hate speech and hate crime.

Through the network of National Roma Contact Points, the Commission in cooperation with the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights also supports the improvement of data collection, reporting and monitoring including by the development of a portfolio of indicators on Roma equality, inclusion and participation.

I underline the successful Diversity Charter initiative.

It helps the Commission in fostering diversity in the workplace by encouraging voluntary initiatives by businesses.

It has reached more than 12,000 signatories in 24 Member States.

I stress again how pleased I am that today’s conference has underlined the importance of equality legislation as well as the prominent role of equality bodies on the ground.

We need to join forces to drive change.

I thank you.