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Home >> Equinet Activities >> Events >> Townhall Discussion on Anti-Discrimination and Equality Law in Europe. (...)

Townhall Discussion on Anti-Discrimination and Equality Law in Europe. Draft “Horizontal Directive”: Next Steps to Advance the Debate

June 4th 2018

On 31 May in Brussels, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner - Europe Regional Office (UNOHCHR Europe) and Equinet, European Network of Equality Bodies coorganised a Town Hall Discussion on advancing anti-discrimination and equality law in Europe.


The twin principles of equality and non-discrimination are the bedrock of the UN human rights framework. Freedom from discrimination is the only right set out in all nine of the core human rights treaties. The problem of discrimination is a regular feature identified during human rights reviews of EU Member States.

Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union stipulates that the EU is founded upon the “values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”. The period 2000-present has seen landmark developments in Europe’s fight against discrimination. European Union anti-discrimination law, however, continues to leave a number of gaps in areas protected by international human rights law. In particular, with the exception of racial or ethnic origin and sex, EU anti-discrimination law only extends to the area of employment.

A draft EU “Horizontal Directive”, pending since July 2008 would strengthen the ban on discrimination on grounds of disability, age, religion or belief and sexual orientation. If adopted, millions of Europeans would benefit from expanded protection against discrimination.

With the current European Commission and Parliament entering their final period, the UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe (OHCHR ROE) and Equinet convened a public discussion on the state-of-play of EU anti-discrimination law, with particular attention to the draft EU Horizontal anti-discrimination directive. The discussion was intended to review reasons for the importance of the draft Directive, as well as to provide support for entities endeavoring to advance the debate.

A joint statement highlighting the importance of swift adoption of the "Horizontal Directive" proposal has been released.

Moderated Panel and Public Discussion


  • Birgit Van Hout, Regional Representative, United Nations Human Rights Office (UN OHCHR)
  • Anne Gaspard, Executive Director, Equinet – European Network of Equality Bodies


  • Irena Moozova, Director, Equality and Union Citizenship, DG Justice and Consumers, European Commission
  • Antonella Gatt, Employment and Social Policy Attache, Permanent Representation of Malta to the European Union
  • Tamás Kádár, Head of Legal and Policy, Equinet – European Network of Equality Bodies
  • Kirsi Pimiä, Non-Discrimination Ombud of Finland
  • An-Sofie Leenknecht, Human Rights Coordinator, European Disability Forum


  • Tena Šimonović Einwalter, Equinet Chair and Deputy Ombudswoman, Office of the Ombudswoman, Croatia


  • Claude Cahn, UN OHCHR
  • Sarah Cooke O’Dowd, Equinet

Questions posed (in advance) to the audience

  • What value does this directive have for the situation in your country and which added protection can it provide?
  • In which ways can this directive make a difference to the situation of the more vulnerable in your society and advance the rights of those discriminated against?
  • If and how do you think this directive contributes to the European values project
  • Why is this horizontal directive an essential missing piece in the puzzle of striving for equality in Europe?
  • What do you need to advance this issue in your work?


Town Hall Discussion - Overview
Town Hall Discussion - Overview