The German presidency officially launched the EU’s Year of Equal Opportunities in Berlin last month when Vladimir Spidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and Ursula von der Leyen, German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, pictured right, opened the first ever European Equality summit.
Vladimir Spidla stressed that ‘equality of opportunities is a fundamental right and getting everyone to contribute is essential if Europe is to compete on the world stage’. He added: ‘I am confident that today's summit and activities throughout the European Year will spark a lively debate on diversity, giving a new impetus to tackling discrimination effectively.’
The summit brought together EU Ministers, equality bodies, trade unions employers and civil society to identify measures to make equal opportunities a reality in the EU and to share good practice on the issue of diversity. A panel of under-25s shared their expectations for the European Year with EU leaders.
Welcoming the Year of Equal Opportunties, EMHF director Erick Savoye said: ‘the conference did an excellent job at highlighting inequalities on a wide range of grounds but the term equal opportunities includes all forms of discrimination and little mention was made of health, certainly not as far as men are concerned. It is was a concern that some of the speakers still used the sort of unhelpful stereotyping that sees all bearers of the Y chromosome as perpetrators.’
Erick said: ‘Current perceptions can be unhelpful. The Eurobarometer survey on discrimination revealed that being a men is overwhelmingly perceived as an advantage. But how does that square with the fact that most of the groups particularly at risk of discrimination are often men. For example, workers of 50+ for whom finding a new job can be particularly challenging are mostly men and the homeless are mostly men. The inequality is hard to measure yet it is perfectly obvious.’
The Eurobarometer survey also revealed that only one third of Europe’s citizens believe they know their rights should they become victims of discrimination or harassment. The survey revealed that a large majority of Europeans feel that discrimination is widespread (64%) and over half (51%) think that not enough is being done to fight discrimination in their country.
The aims of the European Year (EYEO) will be to inform citizens of their right to non-discrimination and equal treatment and to celebrate the benefits of diversity. The campaign will be highly decentralised with hundreds of activities taking place locally, regionally and nationally. This approach will allow initiatives to continue beyond the EYEO, creating a lasting impact on the ground.
- Photo: Vladimir Spidla, on the left, and Ursula von der Leyen, German Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth © European Community 2007