Anti-discrimination awareness campaign launched

In mid-June 2003, the European Commission launched a campaign to increase awareness of discrimination. It believes that there is a need for such awareness-raising, given that two new anti-discrimination Directives come into force during 2003 and that a recent survey has shown that the majority of EU citizens are not aware of their rights in this area.

The European Commission launched on 16 June 2003 a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of discrimination in Europe. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey on attitudes towards discrimination, most people in Europe believe that ethnic origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or age can be an obstacle to finding employment. The survey also found that people feel that discrimination against ethnic minorities is the most widespread form of discrimination in the EU. Around one-fifth of those questioned in the survey said that they had personally witnessed discrimination on ethnic grounds. On a country basis, this ranged from 15% of respondents in Ireland to 35% in the Netherlands. Overall, only one in three respondents stated that they would know what their rights were if they were discriminated against.

The legislative framework governing discrimination in the EU is about to change, with the coming into force, on 19 July 2003, of the Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons, irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin (2000/43/EC), which was adopted in 2000 (EU0006256F). In addition, the framework Directive for equal treatment in employment and occupation (2000/78/EC), also adopted in 2000 (EU0102295F), comes into force on 2 December 2003. This means that, by these dates, Member States need to have put into place appropriate implementing legislation.

Within this context, the Commission is anxious to raise awareness of discrimination issues and to highlight the various rights and obligations contained in the new Directives. It is also keen to raise awareness of the benefits of diversity. It has therefore launched this campaign, centring on a website at www.stop-discrimination.info, which includes a guide to the two new Directives and a summary of the Eurobarometer survey. The campaign will also include a range of events, seminars and media activities, to be devised by national advisory groups made up of national authorities, social partners and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The employment and social affairs Commissioner, Anna Diamantopoulou, stated at the launch of the campaign that: 'Member States must do more to put EU anti-discrimination rules into force before the end of this year. I am extremely concerned that many Member States will miss the fast-approaching deadlines for implementation. If they are to be effective, these new rules must be known, understood and properly enforced. Otherwise, they will be a dead letter. The Eurobarometer survey on discrimination in the EU has clearly shown that people are not sufficiently aware of their rights. That is why I am today launching a Europe-wide information campaign promoting the message "For diversity – against discrimination". We all stand to benefit from ensuring that our workplaces and other areas of daily life are free from discrimination.'

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