The Concepts of Equality and Non-Discrimination in Europe: A Practical Approach
European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Unit G.2, November 2009
Posted: 17 Feb 2011
Date Written: February 16, 2011
Equality and non-discrimination are complex concepts, with considerable debate on their meanings and justification. The discussion of equality and discrimination is, in general, characterised by considerable conceptual and methodological confusion. This is no different in relation to the discussion of equality and discrimination in the European legal context, including in the context of EC law. Although there is agreement on the most elementary principles, in practice a wide range of approaches is often adopted by, for example, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. Similarly, despite there being many common definitions of the central concepts of gender equality law in the EU Member States and EEA countries, there is a fair chance that the concepts are understood and applied differently and that confusion also exists here. This Report provides, in the first place, an analysis of the concept of equality and related notions in EC law, in particular in the case law of the European Court of Justice. In the second place, it analyses the concept of equality and related notions in the EU Member States and EEA countries, in particular in legislation, in case law and in doctrine. Specific attention is paid to the case law of the domestic Constitutional Courts. Although the emphasis of this Report is on gender equality, the discussion of the various concepts is necessarily broader and may also include other grounds of non-discrimination. Understanding how the concepts are interpreted may help to contribute to the appropriate enforcement of equality law in the countries concerned, as well as to point to areas where further clarification by the Commission or Court may be necessary.
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