In order to uphold and advance the legacy of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities, the European Commission has set up in July 2008 a governmental expert group in the field of non-discrimination and the promotion of equality.
The group examines the impact of national and EU-level non-discrimination measures, validates good practice through peer learning and evaluates the effectiveness of non-discrimination policies.
The group is composed of one representative of national authorities in charge of policies against discrimination. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights acts as a permanent observer to the group. External experts or observers with specific competences on a subject as well as civil society, social partners and equality bodies' representatives contribute on an ad hoc basis.
The objective of the group is to foster the further development of policies at EU and national level aimed at combating discrimination and promoting equality.
The governmental expert group allows cooperation between Member States' relevant authorities and the Commission on questions relating to the fight against discrimination based on the following grounds: racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
The group aims also at bringing about an exchange of experience and good practice, validation through peer learning and the development of benchmarks to evaluate the effectiveness of non-discrimination policies.
In 2009, the group will particularly focus on multiple-discrimination and non-discrimination mainstreaming, as set out in the European Commission Communication of July 2008 and confirmed in the conclusions of the Equality Summit held in September 2008 in Paris. The European Commission is also working with the governmental expert group to follow up the findings of a comparative study on homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the EU, carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
Twice a year, the group meets for its regular meetings in Brussels. In addition, a seminar on exchange of good practice in the field on non-discrimination mainstreaming will be organized this autumn in one of the Member States.
The creation of this governmental expert group marks another step along the path of equal opportunities for all.