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European Equality Law Network

European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination

2015 Seminar – Intersectionality, the Istanbul Convention, facilitation of work-life balance, reasonable accommodation law

On 24 November 2015 the first annual legal seminar of the new European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination (EELN) was organised. Due to the precarious security situation in Brussels just before, during and after the days of the seminar, many of those who had registered to attend were forced to cancel. Nevertheless, the seminar brought together almost eighty representatives of the European Commission, EU Member States governments, Equality Bodies, EU umbrella organisations, academics from across Europe, as well as members of the European network of legal experts itself.

The seminar covered the most prominent topics addressed by the EELN during its first year, which ensured lively and well-informed discussions during the plenary session and the workshops. In addition to this participants had the opportunity to exchange views on the implementation and effective enforcement of EU equality and non-discrimination law. Legal developments and future prospects in equality and non-discrimination law were vividly discussed.

In her key note address Sandra Fredman, professor at Oxford University and director of the Oxford Human Rights Hub, gave an overview of various possible approaches to the concept of intersectional discrimination. She also raised the question whether we can interpret existing EU anti-discrimination law to incorporate intersectionality and if there are structural obstacles to do so, discussing various potential obstacles and how these could be overcome.

In each workshop there were speakers introducing the topic of the workshop and, where appropriate, a legal practitioner presented a specific case-study to prime the discussion among the participants.

Workshop – update of European case law

The workshop discussed recent developments in the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’) and the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) . The workshop focussed  on the most important judgments of last year in the field of non-discrimination and equality.

The following cases from the CJEU were reviewed: 

  • Case C-222/14 Maïstrellis (gender)
  • Case C-416/13 Pérez (age)
  • Case C-530/13 Schmitzer (age)
  • Case C-354/13 FOA (disability)
  • Case C-83/14   CHEZ (race/ethnic origin)

As regards the Article 14 case of law of the ECtHR, several cases were presented and discussed:

  • Balázs v. Hungary (race)
  • Ciorcan and Others v. Romania (race)
  • Emel Boyraz v. Turkey (sex)
  • Vrountou v. Cyprus (sex)
  • Identoba and Others v. Georgia (sexual orientation)
  • Danis and Association of Ethnic Turks v. Romania (national minority)
  • Cumhuriyetçi Eğitim Ve Kültür Merkezi Vakfı v. Turkey (religion)
  • Martzaklis v. Greece (HIV)
  • Costel Gaciu v. Romania (other status: remanded in custody) 
  • Sidabras and Others v. Lithuania (other status: ex KGB employee)
  • Qing v. Portugal (nationality)
  • Chbihi Loudoudi v. Belgium (nationality)
  • Lupeni Greek Catholic Parish and Others v. Romania (religion)
  • Mileusnić and Mileusnić-Espenheim v. Croatia (race)
  • Ion Bălăşoiu v. Romania (race)
  • Arnaud and Others v. France (other status: residence)
  • Junta Rectora del E.R.N.E. v. Spain (other status: police)

Workshop – Employment and reasonable accommodation law in the European Union

During the workshop the findings of the thematic report of the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination which looks into this issue was presented, as well as a detailed case study. The participants discussed how laws requiring reasonable accommodation for disabled people in employment contexts are taking shape and are operating in practice across the EU as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. They also reflected upon the main patterns and trends in reasonable accommodation duties, as well as on on-going concerns about lack of conformity with the Employment Equality Directive. Last but not least, emerging examples of good practice were reviewed.

Workshop - Reconciliation - Laws to facilitate work-life balance for working parents

The conditions designed to help people balance work and family life are established in laws and regulations of Member States, collective agreements and/or employment contracts and case law. The ideal work-life balance will be different for different people and may vary over a lifetime. Work-life balance plays a major role in gender equality, particularly with regard to female participation in the labour market. Legislation supporting work-life balance is therefore a very relevant aspect of legislation promoting gender equality. The workshop discussed among others flexible working time arrangements, but also arrangements providing for sharing parts of maternity leave between the parents, as well as care leaves.

Workshop - Disability law outside employment - with a focus on reasonable accommodation 

The UN CRPD requires States Parties to establish a duty to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities across a broad range of areas, whilst the Commission's 2008 proposal for a new Equality Directive seeks to establish a duty to provide a reasonable accommodation with regard to access to social protection (including social, security social housing and healthcare), access to education and access to and supply of goods and services. 

The workshop explored the duty to provide a reasonable accommodation in the EU Member States in the fields covered by the 2008 proposal. The concepts of reasonable accommodation and disproportionate burden were discussed and examples drawn from case law.

Workshop - Legal implications of EU accession to the Istanbul Convention 

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) provides a set of comprehensive obligations to address violence against women within the legal framework of international human rights law. 

The workshop outlined the key features of the Istanbul Convention, and discussed the various legal implications of the Istanbul Convention for both the EU and the 28 EU Member States. The workshop also discussed the added value of EU accession to the Istanbul Convention.



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