Comparison of the Implementation of EU Equality Directives


- Factsheet on the research project -

European law as the basis of the General Equal Treatment Act - AGG

The European Union has obliged its Member States to include the protection from discrimination as stipulated in four Equality Directives into national labour and private law. Each Directive protects different personal aspects in various spheres of life:

DirectiveGround for DiscriminationSphere of life

Anti Racism Directive

2000/43/EC of 29.06.2000
Racial or ethnic origin

Employment and occupation

Access to and provision of goods and services which are available to the public
Framework Directive 2007/78/EC of 27.11.2000Religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientationEmployment and occupation
Recast Directive 2006/54/EC of 5.07.2008 (replaced Directive 2002/73/EC of 23.09.2002)GenderEmployment and occupation
Gender Directive 2004/113/EC of 13.12.2004GenderAccess to and supply of goods and services

All of these four Equality Directives were transposed into German law by means of the General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz - AGG). It entered into force on 18 August 2006.

Practical experience so far

  • By 2010, only a few deficits remained regarding the implementation of the Equality Directives. Indeed, most EU Member States have overdelivered on the Directive. Most deficits have been remedied. 
  • Legal action, by contrast, has comparatively scant success across all Member States. In Great Britain, the success rate is 10 per cent, in Hungary it is three per cent. 
  • The legislative procedure has triggered a discussion over discrimination in the Member States and raised public awareness of the issue.

The differences

Legislative implementation

States like Germany, Estonia and the Netherlands have transposed the Directives by means of a single anti discrimination law. Other states have adopted several anti discrimination laws, among them Belgium, Austria and Denmark.

Statutory discrimination grounds

Several East and West European countries have included additional grounds for discrimination such as illness, political or union activities, civil status and social status. Mainly East European countries have decided to draw up non-conclusive lists of discrimination grounds.

Legal consequences

Major differences exist with regard to sanctions for con-compliance. In North and West European countries, compensation are common while South European countries have opted for penal law approaches.

Anti discrimination organisations

Large differences exist when it comes to the participation of such organisations in legal proceedings. Only a small number of countries allows these organisations to act in court “on behalf of“ discrimination victims.

Anti discrimination agencies

Member States differ fundamentally with regard to the number, size, remit, powers, legal nature and name of the agencies established. Agencies in East European countries enjoy sweeping legal competencies thanks to their quasi-judiciary functions and powers.

Types of implementation

Approaches to implementation fall into three geographical groups that can be dubbed as follows:

  1. The North West European Group

    comprises the Nordic Member States, the United Kingdom, the Benelux countries, Germany, Austria and France. They are characterised by a “proficient” implementation.

  2. The South European Group

    comprises Portugal, Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus. Their approach to implementation can be termed as “reluctant“.

  3. The East European Group

    comprises the Baltic countries, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Their mode of implementation can be termed as “ambitioned“.