European network of legal experts in the non-discrimination field
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Introduction

Equality between women and men and non-discrimination are common values on which the EU is founded and are firmly embedded in the Treaties of the European Union, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and secondary legislation.

The EU treaties refer to equality between women and men and non-discrimination as values shared by the Member States and list promotion of equality between women and men and combatting discrimination among the tasks of the Union. Moreover, elimination of inequalities and promotion of equality between women and men and combatting discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation are core obligations to be respected in all the Union’s activities.

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 mainstreaming is introduced in all policies and activities of the EU with regard to discrimination on grounds of sex, racial and ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation.

Moreover, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union has become a binding set of EU fundamental rights. The Charter prohibits discrimination on any ground, without limiting this prohibition to any specific fields and is addressed to the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and to the Member States when they are implementing Union law.

Application of EU law

The European Commission has a crucial role in monitoring the correct transposition and application of the gender equality and non-discrimination directives at the national level. The Commission is entitled to initiate infringement proceedings against Member States if they had failed to transpose EU directives into their national legal order or if sufficient or incorrect implementation had been done. The Commission may start enforcement action either in response to a complaint brought by an individual or on its own initiative. Infringement proceedings may be brought to the attention of the Court of Justice of the European Union and ultimately the Court is entitled to impose financial penalties on the Member States which would have failed to comply with a previous judgement establishing a breach of EU law.

Individuals may rely directly on EU directives provisions, rather than on the national implementing legislation, under certain conditions, when they claim discrimination against the State or public authorities before national courts. In any other case, in particular against other individuals, redress may be obtained through recourse to national courts, in accordance with national law. Reference for a preliminary ruling may be made to the Court of Justice of the European Union, if legal interpretation of national or EU provisions is needed under the light of EU law. The preliminary reference procedure aims at ensuring uniformity in the interpretation and application of Community law.

Go to the European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities This initiative is financed by the EC Programme Progress. But the views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.