On the occasion of the International Day of People with Disability (3 December), more than 100 organisations representing several million citizens in EU Member States are calling upon the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to withdraw the proposal for a fifth Equal Treatment Directive. Originally intended to remedy specific discrimination against disabled people, it has since become an instrument to advance many other wide-ranging political objectives.
The signatories of the open letter are worried that the proposed Directive, if adopted, would limit the fundamental civil rights of all European citizens in a grave and harmful way – particularly the freedom to carry out diverse and targeted professional, economic and service activities without being afraid of being accused of discrimination.
In an open letter addressed to President Juncker, and in accordance with his order “to discuss, within the first three months of the mandate, with the European Parliament and the Council, the list of pending legislative proposals and to determine whether to pursue them or not, in accordance with the principle of ‘political discontinuity’”, signatories are urging the President and his Vice-President Frans Timmermans to drop the problematic Directive, which has consistently failed over the past six years to obtain the unanimity required for its approval.
Particularly alarming, according to organizations are the vague words such as “less favorable treatment”, “discrimination”, “harassment”, etc., used in the Directive, which could lead to unpredictable consequences and interpretations. According to them, the adoption of the Directive would greatly impact the work of ‘ethos-based’ institutions such as churches, confessional schools and associations.
The letter says that the provision of professional services and entering into contractual agreements, freely and without coercion, are important ways people interact in society and that they should be able to differ in their choices, beliefs and worldviews. According to the organizations proposed directive will create abstract legal obligations, which would dramatically impact such voluntary arrangements. This could seriously undermine the personal independence and social diversity and to put every European citizen in suspicion of discrimination.
The supporters of the open letter are convinced that the EU should not adopt such a harsh, freedom-limiting law like the proposed Directive, especially when its many potential negative effects – limitations of basic civil freedoms, bureaucratic control of all private economic activity, disproportionate administrative and financial burdens placed on citizens – are much more likely than any possible positive outcomes. They consider that there are more appropriate tools that can be used against injustice and inequality in society. The signatories of the open letter urge the European Commission to finally drop the proposed Directive and come up with better, more targeted remedies for real and demonstrated problems that citizens in the EU face.
In connection with the forthcoming meeting of the Council of Ministers, Society and Values Association sent an open letter to the Prime Minister Borisov, and other Bulgarian officials, asking them to withdraw Bulgaria support of the Directive on equal treatment.
These days the Council of Europe is to decide whether to continue its work on the adoption of the Directive on equal treatment, which if adopted will become law for all EU countries.