5. Parliament and the "Horizontal Directive"

Although European protection from discrimination enjoys a broad legal basis in the Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights equivalent to the Treaties as well as in the approved directives, the issue of the so-called horizontal Directive 2008/0140(APP) has not yet been resolved.

Since the LIBE Parliamentary Committee presented the report to the plenary assembly in March 2019, the discussion has not come to an agreement.

The lively debate in plenary that immediately followed highlighted the differences between MEPs and political groups. Some expressed support for the directive, highlighting the need for higher standards of protection against discrimination, while others expressed concern about the increase in costs for public administrations, while others claimed alleged risks for religious freedom.

Eventually, however, the European Parliament expressed its generally positive opinion on the directive in a resolution adopted on 2 April 2009.

The horizontal directive was instead blocked by the Council which since then has seen opposition from seven member countries, including Germany. While recognising the importance of the fight against discrimination of all kinds, some states have questioned the need for the proposal, arguing that the directive violates the national competences of member countries and does not respect the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

In 2012 a hearing was held at the LIBE Committee in which some important NGOs were invited to suggest how to solve the problem of the horizontal directive blocked in the Council.

In her speech at the 2014 plenary, ALDE MEP Sophie in't Veld harshly criticises the political stalemate that prevents the approval of the directive she had been shadow rapporteur for.

In October 2019, the EP held a debate  on how to "take forward the horizontal directive against discrimination", during which several MEPs stressed the need for such a directive to fill the persistent gaps in protection against discrimination in the EU.

Finally, the EP called for the adoption of the directive for the umpteenth time in the resolution of January 2021 on the new EU Strategy for gender equality, which stresses that "an intersectional horizontal perspective is essential in any policy on gender equality in order to recognise and address the multiple threats of discrimination" and in the resolution on Equal Treatment in Employment and Working Conditions in the light of the UNCRPD (2020/2086(INI)) which "calls on the Council to unblock, without further delay, the negotiations on the proposed horizontal anti-discrimination directive and to proceed towards an agreement, thus extending the protection of persons with disabilities outside the sphere of work”.


The EU's role in combating discrimination

Legislative Train Schedule - Area of Justice and Fundamental Rights