What is the Equal Treatment Directive

The Equal Treatment Directive (ETD) is a legislative proposal that was released by the Commission in 2008. If it’s accepted, all 28 EU Member States will have to implement it by taking legislative action.

The intention of the ETD is to prevent discrimination in the provision of goods and services. But the reality is that the ETD would undermine freedom, especially freedom of contract, in four important areas that affect everyone.

The protected characteristics in the ETD are:

  • age
  • disability
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation

Because EU law takes precedence over domestic law, all Member States would have to ensure that their national laws respect the minimum standards set out by the directive.

What would be the impact of the ETD?

If it’s adopted, the ETD would have a wide-ranging impact on every citizen. It would apply to all persons, as regards both the public and private sectors, including public bodies, in relation to:

  • Access to and supply of goods and services, including housing, which are available to the public and which are offered outside the context of private and family life
  • Access to social protection, including social security, social assistance, social housing and healthcare
  • Access to education (article 3 Draft ETD)

The ETD would apply, in relation to these areas, in the whole “process of seeking information, applying, registration and similar activities, as well as the actual admission to / participation in educational activities and the actual provision and enjoyment of social protection measures and of goods and services.” (article 3 Draft ETD)

When will the ETD come into force?

The ETD hasn’t been adopted yet, but it could be adopted at any time.

In 2009 the European Parliament adopted its opinion under the consultation procedure of the Nice Treaty and proposed 80 amendments.

But for the ETD to come into force, it needs to have unanimous approval from the Council (article 19 TFEU). Small amendments have been made by Member States, but no consensus has yet been reached.

This is why the ETD has now been blocked in the Council for six years.

The ETD’s scope and main provisions – Further details

Source: EP Impact Assessment p 12

Issue Detail
Grounds of discrimination
  • Religion or belief
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
Notion of discrimination
  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Instruction to discriminate
  • Denial of reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities
Sectors specified
  • All persons – both public and private sectors
  • Social protection, including social security and health care
  • Social Advantages
  • Education
  • Access to and supply of goods and services available to the public (including housing)
Limiting factors
  • Legitimate aim may justify differences in treatment based on age
  • Differences applied by financial services can be justified on actuarial basis
  • Without prejudice to measures on public security, maintenance of public order, prevention of criminal offences, protection of health and rights and freedoms of others

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