Public Hearing on Sexual Orientation Discrimination at Work
11 november 2003

MEPs and NGOs call for the call for the full transposition of Framework Directive 2000/78 and urge the EU to put an end to the hierarchy of discrimination
The Public Hearing that took place last Tuesday 11th November in the European Parliament brought together more than 120 legal experts, government representatives, social partners, and NGO representatives to discuss the state of implementation of the EU framework directive on anti-discrimination at work. Three weeks before the deadline, the situation looks dire:
- Out of the 15 current member states, only three have fully transposed the directive to date 
- Of the remaining 12, some cover a considerable scope of the directive but do not yet fully comply, others are either insufficient or in proposal status whilst some have not yet issued any proposed legislation at all
To sum up, the Member States do not live up to their obligations.
In her opening speech, Commissioner Diamantopoulou expressed her commitment to this vital tool in fighting discrimination:  
“We will give top priority to ensuring that these rules are correctly transposed into national law. (…) Delay cannot be justified – the Commission intends to play fully its role as the guardian of the Treaty. If necessary, we are ready to launch infringements against those Member States that do not meet their obligations under Community law.”
Furthermore, the Commissioner announced the publication of a Green Paper on EU anti-discrimination policy for next spring. It would provide a “major opportunity for all stakeholders to express their views on how to develop anti-discrimination policies and weigh up the alternatives for moving forward”.
Dutch MEP Joke Swiebel, Chair of the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, further emphasised the importance of this directive in strengthening equality in the EU:
“This directive is our most precious crown jewel – we must defend it from being stolen from us. We cannot accept Member States to refuse to take sexual orientation on board. It is not only an obligation but a minimum level of decency. Full transposition means an explicit mention of sexual orientation, it implies an inclusion of protection from indirect discrimination, as well as a limited and specified definition of the permissible exceptions in relation to occupational requirements, especially in the context of religious ideals.”
MEP Swiebel called for an end to the hierarchy of discrimination at EU level: “we must work for a coherent and inclusive set of anti-discrimination measures at EU level that does not discriminate between the different grounds of discrimination”. One step in this direction, she continued, would be to refresh the equality coalition set up last April to push for better EU decision-making processes on anti-discrimination.
Many NGO representatives expressed their concern about the hesitation of governments to act. Especially with regard to sexual orientation discrimination, social prejudice continues to block the road to full equality. Ailsa Spindler, director of ILGA-Europe, stated:
“In the face of intolerance and homophobia, legal change is an important first step. But it is not enough. Governments have to go beyond the minimum and enable potential victims to make use of these new rights. Where distrust in the system and fear hinder individuals from fighting discrimination, measures such as training the judiciary or setting up equality bodies need to complement legislative change. Governments, social partners and NGOs alike have to make every effort to empower those most in danger of otherwise being excluded.”
For the opening and closing remarks by MEP Joke Swiebel please refer to the section "Publicaties & Speeches" on this website.