Academic journal article McGill Law Journal

The Changing Scope of the Fundamental Principle of Equality?

Academic journal article McGill Law Journal

The Changing Scope of the Fundamental Principle of Equality?

Article excerpt

The author considers the impact of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and two recent Directives on the evolution of the "fundamental" right to equality. She outlines the development of the equality principle in the context of sex discrimination, beginning with the economic principle of equal pay for equal work. In the 1970s one legal approach to sex equality began a continuing evolution to include conceptions of direct and indirect discrimination and formal and substantive equality. She then considers the "horizontal" labour market Directive and the race Directive of 2000, tracing their connections to existing national legislation and noting difficulties posed for applicants by the burden of proof. Both Directives contain complex derogations. The Race Directive in particular provides strong remedies, notably a provision on victimization and an obligation to designate a body to promote equal treatment of persons, and both Directives envisage an important role for non-governmental organizations. That these Directives were ever concluded is an achievement, and in some states the Directives represent a significant leap forward in protecting disadvantaged groups. In other states with existing similar legislation, however, it may seem that the Directives embody an outmoded approach to equality, focussed chiefly on non-discrimination, rather than its broader, more results-oriented, distributive sense.

L'auteur fait etat de l'impact de la Charte des droits fondamentaux de l'Union europeenne et de deux directives recentes sur l'evolution du droit << fondamental >> a l'egalite, en debutant par un survol du dEveloppement du principe d'egalite. Ce principe, dans le contexte de la discrimination sexuelle, fit ses debuts avec le principe economique du salaire egal pour travail egal. Dans les annees 1970, emergea une nouvelle approche concernant l'egalite sexuelle, incluant les distinctions entre discrimination directe et indirecte ainsi qu'entre egalite formelle et substantive. L'anteur examine la directive sur l'egalite de traitement et la directive sur l'egalite raciale et ethnique, en particulier leurs liens avec les lois nationales existantes, les difficultes relatives au fardeau de preuve impose aux plaignants, et l'existence de clauses derogatoires complexes. La directive sur l'egalite raciale et ethnique, en particulier, prevoit des remedes significatifs, notamment des dispositions sur la victimisation et l'obligation de designer un organisme pour promouvoir l'egalite de traitement entre les personnes ; de plus, les deux directives prevoient un role important pour les ONG. L'adoption meme de ces directives constitue un accomplissement non negligeable, et representera un progres considerable pour la protection de groupes desavantages dans certains Etats. Pour d'autres Etats qui possedent deja des lois similaires, toutefois, les directives pourront sembler incarner une approche demodee envers la question de l'egalite, basee sur la non-discrimination plutot que sur l'aspect distributif plus large de ce concept.

Introduction

I. The Breadth and Scope of Equality Law in the EU

II. The Article 13 Directives

Conclusion

Introduction

The achievement of equality now stands at the forefront of the European Union's agenda, not only in the field of sex, but also in respect of race, ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, age, and sexual orientation, with the adoption of two important new Directives (1) under Article 13, (2) the new legal basis introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam. (3) The principle of equality also has a central place in the newly adopted Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. (4) Its Preamble provides:

   Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded
   on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom,
   equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy
   and the rule of law. … 
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