11th Dec 2023

Denmark: No hope of breakthrough on EU rights bill

  • Rally by far-right group, the English Defence League. NGOs say the crisis has created a 'climate of growing intolerance' (Photo: Gavin Lynn)

The Danish EU presidency aims to keep talks going on an EU bill on minority rights in the services sector. But it has no faith in a breakthrough.

Danish spokesman Jakob Alvi told EUobserver on Wednesday (11 January) it will hold "a couple of meetings" on parts of the draft law dealing with elderly people in a bid to get "better language" amid reservations in a large chunk of member states.

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"We will pick up on the work of the Polish presidency and hopefully move things forward ... We will produce a progress report. But we do not foresee a discussion on the whole text at the level of the EU Council," he said.

"It's a complicated file as it needs unanimity in the Council and approval by the European Parliament, but some member states have problems with it ... This all that's possible to do in the Council right now, the way things stand."

The European Commission proposed the bill - known as the "fourth anti-discrimination directive" - in 2008.

The law would make it illegal for, say, hotels or transport firms to deny services to a long list of minority groups also including disabled people, gay people and ethnic and religious minorities.

The eight-or-so countries against the directive, led by Germany, have in the past said it will cost too much, for example by forcing small businesses to install disabled access. The sceptics also say the EU Treaty does not give Brussels the right to legislate on social issues.

A group of seven NGOs - Age Platform Europe, Amnesty International, the European Disability Forum, the European Network Against Racism, the European Women's Lobby as well as gay rights groups ILGA-Europe and ILGYO - on Thursday published an appeal to get the bill out of deep-freeze.

"If this proposal is shelved, the consequences will be severe. Hopes were raised that at last everyone will enjoy the same rights and access to goods and services wherever they are in the EU," their statement said.

They added that elderly people are often denied bank loans and holiday insurance in the Union, schools are not doing enough to stop bullying of young gay men and women and disabled people get stuck at home due to bad access to public spaces.

Noting that the crisis has created a "climate of growing intolerance against minorities and ... the most vulnerable groups across Europe," they also highlighted a survey by the EU's rights agency in Vienna saying private companies often discriminate against Muslims.

The EU agency estimates there are 13 million Muslims in the EU, mostly in France, Germany, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy. The EU is also home to 31 million people born outside the bloc, some 11 million Roma and between 2 million and 4 million irregular migrants.


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