Welcome to the first edition of the Equinet Newsbook, the revamped newsletter from Equinet - the European Network of Equality Bodies
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= Front-page

Vice-President Reding confirms full EC support to equality bodies in answer to MEPs’ question

In their question to the European Commission, MEPs Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), Sophia in ’t Veld (ALDE), Claude Moraes (S&D), Lívia Járóka (PPE), Michael Cashman (S&D), Zita Gurmai (S&D), Emine Bozkurt (S&D), Kinga Göncz (S&D) addressed the issue of "independent and effective equality bodies to ensure the implementation and impact of EU equal treatment legislation".

MEPs have expressed their concern that "the EU directives do not provide adequate standards and guarantees for the independence and effectiveness of equality bodies, and a number of Member States, under the cover of the economic crisis, are challenging and undermining the independence and effectiveness of their national equality bodies". They also emphasized the need to introduce standards to protect and to stimulate the development of equality bodies, and ensure that they can achieve their full potential.

Ms. Reding's answer on behalf of the European Commission stated that the Directives require Member States to ensure their equality bodies function independently and effectively.  She also added that "the Commission monitors the correct implementation of [the] directives, and takes appropriate action, including initiation of infringement proceedings before the Court of Justice, in cases in which Member States do not comply with EU obligations."
Tamás Kádár: The Standing of National Equality Bodies before the European Union Court of Justice - the Implications of the Belov Judgment

In an article for the latest volume of the Equal Rights Review, Tamás Kádár (Equinet's Senior Policy Officer, expressing his own view) analyses and discusses the implications of the preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), delivered on 31 January 2013 in response to a reference for a preliminary ruling by the Bulgarian national equality body, Komisia za Zashtitaot Diskriminatsia (Commission for Protection against Discrimination, KZD).

The article argues that, by declaring the reference for a preliminary ruling by the KZD inadmissible, the CJEU has missed an important opportunity to interpret the EU’s Race Equality Directive and to further establish itself as a leading human rights court.

The article starts by summarising the pre liminary ruling procedure, followed by an analysis of the judgment, in conjunction with the Opinion of Advocate General Kokott delivered in this case on 20 September 2012. Finally, it provides a view on the implications of the judgment and the steps which different actors and stakeholders could take with a view to reducing the potential negative effects of the judgment.
New regulations for European Structural and Investment Funds require Member States to involve equality bodies actively

The new regulations covering the period 2014-2020 require the involvement of equality bodies in the preparation of activities relating to the Funds
This involvement in the strategic planning at national level will mark an important development given that the five Funds (European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, Cohesion Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) represent more than a third of the EU's total budget.
The so-called ex-ante conditionalities (to be fulfilled by Member States for the use of these funds) include the involvement of equality bodies in the preparation and implementation of programmes as requirement. More precisely, Member States have to ensure “Arrangements in accordance with the institutional and legal framework of Member States for the involvement of bodies responsible for the promotion of equal treatment of all Persons [and of bodies responsible for gender equality]  throughout the preparation and implementation of programmes, including the provision of advice on equality in ESI-fund related activities”.
The full guidance document can be found here.
Europe’s human rights and equality bodies committed to ensuring fundamental rights for all becomes a daily reality

A joint statement by Equinet, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions and the Council of Europe
On 7-8 October 2013 in Vienna, representatives from national, European and international human rights and equality bodies reiterated their commitment to work together to strengthen rights protection in Europe. It was the first time that National Human Rights Institutions, Equality Bodies and Ombudsperson Institutions across Europe had come together in one place with the Council of Europe, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, the UN and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. While acknowledging the close ties for mutual support, communication and cooperation among Europe’s human rights and equality bodies, they also recognised that greater efforts are needed to safeguard people’s rights and equality in Europe under the current economic crisis. Strong, independent and effective national, European and international human rights and equality bodies play a key role in this.

= Our work

On 18-19 September 2013 in Lisbon, Equinet, with the support and hosting of the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (CIG) and the Commission for Equality in Labour and Employment (CITE) organised a gender equality training event on equal pay. Details and contributions
On 24-25 October 2013 in Zagreb, Equinet, with the support and hosting of the Croatian Office of the Ombudsman, organised a training event aiming at combating discrimination and promoting equality by engaging and working with duty bearers (i.e. state or non-state actors with legal obligations to respect the principle of equal treatment). Details and contributions

= Snippets

  • European Parliament resolution of 12 September 2013 on the application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value
  • European Parliament’s Committees back the European Commission’s proposal on Women on boards
  • European Parliament and Council discuss a new directive to ensure the better application of EU legislation on people’s right to work in another Member State than their own and thus to make it easier for people to exercise their rights in practice (including better protection from discrimination on the grounds of nationality)
  • European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) toolkit helps public officials improve fundamental rights (more details here)
  • FRA Opinion on the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia – with special attention to the rights of victims of crime (more details here)
  • FRA Publication of Call for Expressions of Interest for Seconded National Experts (more details here)
  • Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopts historical intersex resolution
  • Dismissal of an employee on account of his HIV infection was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights (more details here)
  • The Equal Rights Trust published Volume Eleven of The Equal Rights Review (ERR), an interdisciplinary biannual journal intended as a forum for the exchange of legal, philosophical, sociological and other ideas and practical insights for those who are promoting equality.
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