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Equinet Members' Bulletin - EU & International Developments
March 2017
Dear Equinet Members,
This Members’ Bulletin gathers the latest European Union (EU) and international developments. It aims to give you an overview of relevant policy and legal developments, as well as latest publications, funding opportunities and upcoming events. We very much hope this members’ bulletin will be useful in your day-to-day work and we would be grateful if you could disseminate it among your colleagues. Your feedback is also greatly appreciated.

Should you have any comments or further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Jessica Machacova, Equinet Membership and Policy Officer ( / 0032 2 212 31 80).

Highlight n°1

The Court of Justice of the EU rules on headscarf cases

On 14th March, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) published its long awaited judgment in two similar requests for preliminary rulings concerning the wearing of Muslim headscarves in the work place.


Both cases were lodged in April 2015 and concerned Muslim women who were dismissed from work after refusing to take off their headscarves. The applicant in the Achbita case (C-157/15) is supported by our Belgian member Unia. The Bougnaoui case (C-157/15) originated from France.

Findings of the Court

In its judgements, the CJEU found that an existing general internal rule of a private employer prohibiting the wearing of visible signs of political, philosophical or religious beliefs does not constitute direct discrimination on the basis of religion or belief as long as this internal rule is universally applied to all employees.

A complete analysis of the cases by Equinet is available here

What is next? 

The Belgian and the French national courts requesting the preliminary ruling will now have to decide the cases at national level, making use of the interpretation of EU law provided by the CJEU.

In 2017, Equinet’s Working Group on Equality Law will also 
analyse these cases and other recent cases on religion and belief in the European and national courts.

What do equality bodies say? 

  • Read about the cases from the point of view of Unia (Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities) in English, French and Dutch

What do civil society organisations and Members of the European Parliament say? 

  • Read ENAR (European Network against Racism) press release here.
  • Read ARDI (European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup) press release here

Links to the judgements

Highlight n°2

Snapshots of the 2017 International Women's Rights Day

All over Europe, International Women’s Day was marked with a variety of marches, events and publications. In the following you will find some of the highlights.

EU - European Commission & EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

Questions and Answers: What is the EU doing for women's rights and gender equality? On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the European Commission published a summary of the work the EU is conducting in the field of gender equality, including economic independence of women, outstanding challenges to female employment, gender pay gap and violence against women.

The Commission also published a statement on the occasion of International Women's Day 2017 with a strong message of the importance of promoting gender equality: Intolerance against women and misogyny manifest themselves in the public sphere as well as behind the cowardly anonymity of the Internet. Attacks on women's rights are on the rise. Too many Europeans still think sexual intercourse without consent can be justifiable. Women are also on the frontline of discrimination and violence, especially in conflict areas around the world.”

The Fundamental Rights Agency focused on
empowerment of women, stating that Roma women have long been held back by inequalities, poverty, dire living conditions and a lack of opportunities.

Council of Europe - High Commissioner for Human Rights

The High Commissioner of Human Rights of the Council of Europe Nils Muiznieks used the occasion to encourage European actors to change this situation and make Europe a place where all women live the life they want, free from gender-based violence and free from sexism.  Furthermore, the Council of Europe No Hate Speech Movement organised an Action Day Countering Sexist Hate Speech on 8th March 2017 and recommended a number of actions to combat sexist hate speech.  

Civil Society Organisations

The European Women’s Lobby focused on violence against women and the right to live a life free from violence and fear. As a part of the European Coalition to end violence against women and girls they called on the EU decision-makers to mark International Women’s Day with concrete actions.

Transgender Europe stated that they stand with the feminist movement and call upon policy makers, healthcare professionals and the media to strongly denounce any backlash or attacks on reproductive rights for all women and trans people. The organisation also published a fact-sheet
, highlighting 10 facts which show why the trans and women’s rights movement should work in mutual solidarity and support each other in the face of gender inequality.
General Information
Policy Developments

Migration, discrimination, security and rights promotion: the FRA presents its 2017 priorities

In February, the FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty outlined the priorities of the agency for 2017. FRA will particularly focus on migration, discrimination, security and rights promotion.

On the topic of discrimination, the director stated that 2017 will be a landmark year with the release of findings from the Agency’s second EU minorities’ survey which covers the experiences of various minority groups within European society.

The first Roma results already emerged last year and the FRA will continue to work on the 'troubling and unsatisfactory' situation of Roma. The experience of what it is like being Muslim in Europe will follow and then the main results in December. FRA will also start work on its second antisemitism survey. More information is available here.
Publications, funding opportunities & events

EVENT  ERA – Academy of European Law – Seminar on EU Anti-Discrimination Law - 18 & 19th September 2017, Trier, Germany

Register here by 19th July 2017.

EVENT  ERA & EPRS – Joint event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty - 28th March 2017, Brussels, Belgium

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY  Adoption of the 2017 Rights, Equality and Citizenship Work Programme

On 1st March 2017, the European Commission adopted the 2017 Rights, Equality and Citizenship Work Programme, thus giving green light for launching several funding initiatives, for the total budget of EUR 61.5 million. 2017 calls for proposals for operating and action grants are expected to be published by the end of March here.

PUBLICATION New European Handbook on Equality Data

This handbook promotes equality and contributes to fight against discrimination in the EU by analysing why and what kind of data should be collected in relation to equality and discrimination. It is a revision of a previous Handbook from 2007. It is available here.

PUBLICATION ENAR (European Network against Racism) - Factsheets on equality data collection

Gender Equality
Policy Developments

EU institutions call on action against violence against women

On 3rd February 2017, meeting at the Conference on the EU responses to violence against women in Valletta, the Council Presidency, the European Commission and the European Parliament gave a joint statement, calling on the Member States to:
  • Ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) for those Member States not having done so yet;
  • Fully and effectively implement the Istanbul Convention;
  • Conclude and finalise the decision on the EU accession to the Convention with a meaningful scope; and
  • Engage in a constructive and open dialogue with the Presidency, the Commission and the Council of Europe to clarify that the definition of gender-based violence is the violence that happens to women because they are women and to reaffirm the ongoing commitment to solve the outstanding issues.
The three European institutions also commit themselves to zero tolerance to violence against women and girls.

European Parliament adopts report on equality between women and men in 2014-2015

The European Parliament recently adopted a resolution on equality between women and men in the EU in 2014-2015.

The report 
discusses equal economic independence, equal pay for work of equal value, equality in decision-making, gender-based violence, gender equality in external action and cross-cutting issues. It stresses that faster progress is needed if the EU is to meet its gender equality targets of Europe 2020. 

In particular, the report 
encourages EU Member States to work with national equality bodies to "increase monitoring of the intersectionality between gender and different grounds for discrimination, and to implement more effective inclusion strategies by making efficient use of social policy resources, not least the European Social Fund and the Structural Funds".

The full report is available here

Council of Europe: Discrimination remains widespread in the States Parties to the European Social Charter

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) just published its annual conclusions for 2016 (Social Charter and Revised Charter) showing 166 violations of the European Social Charter on the articles of the Charter relating to “employment, training and equal opportunities » across 34 Council of Europe member states.

As a result, it was possible to identify several problems that a large number of States Parties encounter when applying the Charter, including insufficient protection against discrimination in employment based on sex and insufficient guarantee of equal rights between women and men in particular as regards equal pay. More information is available here
Publications, funding opportunities & events

EVENT  EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) - AT GENDER Spring Conference - 19-21 April 2017, Vilnius, Lithuania

PUBLICATION European Commission - Report - 2017 Report on Equality between Women and Men in the EU

PUBLICATION European Parliament - Briefing - Young Women's Unemployment in the EU

PUBLICATION European Parliament - Report - Women's Economic Empowerment at International Level

PUBLICATION EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) - Report - An analysis of the Victims' Rights Directive from a gender perspective

Race & Ethnic Origin
Policy Developments

21st March is International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The United Nations designated 21 March the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966, in memory of the 69 people killed six years earlier in Sharpeville, South Africa, during a peaceful demonstration to protest the apartheid system. The 2017 theme is racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration. More information about the work of the UN on this occasion is available here

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), and the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released a public statement underlining the importance of education to promote inclusion and mutual respect essential to counter hate speech. The full statement is available here

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also released a statement where he mentions that people of African descent continue to be victims of racist hate crimes and racism in all areas of 
life, and that anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head from the US to Europe to the Middle East and beyond. The Commissioner acknowledged that we face a world where discriminatory practices are still widespread, but that equality bodies and national human rights institutions in many countries work to prevent and combat such discrimination. Read more about the statement here.

European Commission to conduct the mid-term review of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020

The Commission reviews annually the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies and reports on the progress made to the European Parliament and the Council, as well as under the framework of the Europe 2020. The deadline for Member States to send the Commission their contribution is set by end of March.
Other stakeholders are invited to provide their contribution to the 2017 Commission's assessment through a questionnaire focusing on the midterm review of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.
The deadline for filling the questionnaire is set for end of March. 
Publications, funding opportunities & events

PUBLICATION European Commission - Report - The meaning of racial or ethnic origin in EU law: between stereotypes and identities

PUBLICATION Council of Europe - Report - Research on Roma women in 5 European countries

PUBLICATION Council of Europe - ECRI - New reports on Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg

Read Equinet's articles about the reports here.
Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
Policy Developments

European Commission publishes first implementation report on the List of Actions to Advance LGBTI Equality

In February, the European Commission published the first annual implementation of the LGBTI List of Actions to advance LGBTI Equality. 

The report highlights the actions undertaken by the Commission to promote equality of LGBTI people since the launch of the List of Actions in December 2015.

The full report is available here
Policy Developments

European Disabled People's Organisations (DPOs) demonstrate for a strong accessibility act

In March in Brussels, activists demonstrated in front of the European Parliament in Brussels to call on the European Parliament to adopt a strong EU Accessibility Act

The EU Accessibility Act is a proposal of Directive launched by the European Commission in December 2015. It sets up minimum standards for the harmonisation of accessibility requirements of a list of products and services in the EU. 

The IMCO (Internal Market and Consumer Protection) Committee of the European Parliament is currently in charge of negotiating the text. The draft report of the Committee waters down fundamental parts of the proposal which, if adopted, would considerably weaken the EU Accessibility Act. 

More information about the demonstration and the work of the European Disability Forum on the EU Accessibility Act is available here
Asylum & Migration
Publications, funding opportunities & events

EVENT European Commission - Migration Conference 2017 - 23rd to 26th August 2017, Athens, Greece

Papers for the Migration Conference can be submittedd until 28th March 2017. 

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY European Commission - Fast track integration into the labour market for third country nationals targeting exclusively asylum seekers, refugees and their family members  - Deadline: 30 March 2017

PUBLICATION EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) - Report - Current migration situation in the EU: Torture, trauma and its possible impact on drug use

Case Law
Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU)

Opinion 3/15 of the Grand Chamber - Marrakesh Treaty

On August 11th 2015, the European Commission asked the CJEU to give an opinion on the following question:

Does the European Union have exclusive competence to conclude the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled? 

The Court found that the body of obligations laid down by the Marrakesh Treaty falls within an area that is already covered to a large extent by common EU rules and the conclusion of that treaty may thus affect those rules or alter their scope, and the Court concluded that the Marrakesh Treaty falls within the exclusive competence of the European Union.

The full opinion is available here
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)

Talpis v Italy - 2nd March 2017

Italian authorities failed to protect a mother and son because they did not take prompt action on a complaint concerning conjugal violence.

More information is available here
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