Equinet Chair and Deputy Ombudswoman Tena Simonovic Einwalter met with Věra, Jourová Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, on April 12, 2018 in Brussels. The theme of the meeting, which was held within the process of consulting the Standards for Equality Bodies, was the Commission Action Plan to tackle the gender pay gap and Equinet Working Paper on Developing Standards for Equality Bodies.

In order to ensure the effective application of the EU’s equal treatment legislation in practice, the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) and the Gender Equality Directives (2006/54/EC, 2004/113/EC and 2010/41/EU) require that Member States set up equality bodies. Their competences must include (i) providing independent assistance to victims of discrimination in pursuing complaints, (ii) conducting independent surveys, and (iii) publishing independent reports and making recommendations.

The text of the Directives leaves discretion to Member States as to the structure and functioning of equality bodies. This has resulted in significant differences between the bodies established in the Member States, in terms of mandate, competences, structures and resources. In recent years, a number of equality bodies have faced significant reductions in their budgets, and several cases of external pressure and undue interference have been reported. The functioning of a number of equality bodies has been severely hampered, as is evidenced by the increase in complaints about their independence and effectiveness. Studies report problems in the setting up of functioning equality bodies in a number of Member States. In particular, they observe that unequal and sometimes insufficient access to protection has been set up for citizens depending on their Member State, and that only an EU-level action can help ensure that equality bodies function efficiently and in an equivalent way across the Union.

The present initiative aims at tackling these issues and helping equality bodies reach their full potential, by setting up recommendations in relation to their mandate, independence, effectiveness and institutional architecture.