Letter from Clerk of Sub-Committee G to
Equal Opportunities Commission dated 29 July 2005
My Sub-Committee is currently examining a proposal
by the European Commission to set up a European Institute for
As part of that consideration, my Sub-Committee
would welcome any views which the Equal Opportunities Commission
may have on the merits of this proposal and especially in response
to the following questions:
are the purpose and proposed tasks
of the Institute clear, relevant and well thought-out?
would the Institute be likely to
add significant value to gender equality activities in the EU,
and, if so, which ones?
alternatively, could the work which
it is proposed to do be done equally well by existing national
or international bodies?
does the Equal Opportunities Commission
have any views on the proposed structure, administrative and financial
arrangements for the Institute?
was your organisation consulted about
the proposal by the European Commission?
The Sub-Committee may decide to use any reply
you may give as written evidence. If so, it would become the property
of the Sub-Committee and might be printed, circulated or made
available to the public on the Parliamentary website or through
the Parliamentary Record Office.
I do hope you would be prepared to assist the
Sub-Committee in this way. Parliament is now in Recess but the
Sub-Committee will be meeting again shortly after Parliament resumes
on Monday 10 October. I would be most grateful if you could let
me have your response by then.
Letter from Clerk of Sub-Committee G to Equal
Opportunities Commission dated 1 December 2005
PROPOSED EU REGULATION
We were very grateful for the oral evidence
which Tijs Broeke gave in your absence but hope that you might
be able to throw some more light on the extent to which the EOC
has been consulted by the British Government about the Proposal.
We were surprised to see from your response
dated 6 October the statement, in answer to question 5, that the
EOC was not directly consulted by the British Government or by
the European Commission, but was indirectly involved in consultation
with the Commission through the European Advisory Committee on
Equality for Women and Men.
During the oral evidence session on 17 November
Lord Harrison asked Tijs Broeke about this. You will see from
the attached extract from the transcript (QQ 24/25, pages 18/19)
that Tijs confirmed that the EOC was "indirectly involved
through the Advisory Committee". He added that some members
of your staff had participated in interviews with the Commission's
feasibility study, which he described as being "involved
in the scoping". This left us with the impression that the
EOC was consulted indirectly by the Commission, but apparently
not consulted by the British Government.
At the oral evidence session on 24 November
Baroness Gale asked the Minister about this. I attach an extract
from the uncorrected copy of the transcript of the questions (Q
37-40, pages 10-12). You will see we were told that the EOC were
consulted by the DTI by email in April 2004 and that the Minister
was confident from the "regular contact" which she and
her officials had with the EOC that "there is no real difference
of approach between us with exceptions around issues on the budget".
Liz Chennells went on to say that you were involved
in the exchange of emails with the DTI and suggested that Tijs
might not have been working for the Commission at that stage.
She also said that, although there had been no formal consultation
with the EOC since the exchange of emails about the Gender Institute
Proposal, it had "come up a number of times in our informal
meetings in relation to a number of other areas".
The Sub-Committee would be most grateful for
any comments you might have which might help to clarify this.
Letter from Equal Opportunities Commission
to Clerk of Sub-Committee G dated 6 December 2005
PROPOSED EU REGULATION
I am grateful to the Sub-Committee for allowing
me to clarify our written response and the evidence my colleague
Tijs Broeke gave at the oral evidence session on 17 November.
As explained by Mr Broeke the EOC has been indirectly
involved through the Advisory Committee and some members of our
staff have participated in the interviews with the Commission's
feasibility study. In addition, as the Minister stated at the
oral evidence session on 24 November, the EOC has regular contact
with the Minister and her officials in many different contexts
and there are in general no real differences of approach regarding
the establishment of the European Gender Institute between the
Government and us.
I would also like to take away some confusion
regarding the email exchange between the EOC and the DTI as mentioned
by the Minister and Liz Chennells. We have checked the exchange
of emails, of which we were not aware when preparing the session
of 17 November, and I can confirm that my colleague Janet Hemsley
informed the DTI of our general opinion in response to an enquiry
from them back in 2004.
Ms Hemsley has since retired and I would like
to apologise for the confusion this omission might have caused.
Finally. please find attached additional information
on the number of EU countries that have integrated equality bodies
covering different non-discrimination and equality strands and
on the funding cf the European Gender Institute on a "budget
neutral" basis and the plans to take this out of the PROGRESS
budget, as requested by the Sub-Committee.
Letter from Equal Opportunities Commission
to Legal Assistant dated 21 December 2005
I would like to thank you for the opportunity
offered by the European Union Committee Sub-Committee E to provide
additional evidence regarding the establishment of a European
Fundamental Rights Agency in relation to the European Equality
In relation to the Institute the Sub-Committee
has formulated two questions:
Should the protection of gender rights
be separated from other fundamental rights through the creation
of two separate agencies? What are the advantages and disadvantages
of this approach?
As stated in our submission to the EU Sub-Committee
G regarding the European Gender Institute, the EOC would have
preferred one integrated European body covering all equality strands
including gender. Our experience as an equal opportunities body
working on equality between women and men is that it is vital
not to disassociate gender from the rest of the equality strands.
The EOC therefore, especially with the creation of the Commission
for Equality and Human Rights in mind, has been arguing for more
coordination and cooperation at a European level regarding promoting
equality and fighting discrimination.
The advantages and disadvantages of setting
up one integrated body or two separated bodies are discussed in
our written evidence to the EU Sub-Committee G, and I do not think
that we have any further points to make to that earlier evidence.
How might the two bodies work together
to ensure that overlap is avoided and that cooperation is maximised
to improve their effectiveness?
Given that a decision has been made to have
two separate bodies it is crucial that duplication is avoided.
Both Institutes could for example work together to carry out EU-wide
research on the specific barriers faced by women with disabilities
or the position of BME women on the labour market and suggest
possible solutions or provide examples of best practices. Joint
planning and close co-operation have to be ensured. Perhaps the
European Commission can incorporate this need for joint planning
and close co-operation into the statutes establishing both bodies?
The two bodies can also work together on an operational level.
Practical solutions could for example be secondments of staff
between the bodies, shared training programmes for staff, joint
research projects, joint planning, gender mainstreaming the work
of the Fundamental Rights Agency and establishing both bodies
in the same location. The Fundamental Rights Agency is currently
located in Vienna. The new Gender Institute should ideally be
located near to this location to promote close cooperation if
the European Commission chooses to create of two separate organisations.
Please find attached a copy of our submission
(Annex A) of 14 December 2005 to the European Commission's consultation
regarding the establishment of a European Fundamental Rights Agency,
for ease of reference.
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) welcomes
the opportunity to respond to the consultation on the Fundamental
Rights Agency for the European Union. As the statutory body working
for sex equality in the UK, the EOC is keen to see a more integrated
approach on equality to be developed. Below you find our responses
to the Communication. We do not respond to all the questions raised
by the consultation but rather focus on the issues linked to our
work, experience and expertise (questions 1, 2, 3 and 4).
1. How can the remit of the Agency be defined
in order to ensure both added-value for the EU institutions and
Member States and its efficient operation?
The EOC welcomes the proposal to extend the
remit of the existing European Monitoring Centre on Racism and
Xenophobia (EUMC). The focus in the Communication is, however,
extremely wide in relation to the concrete areas it would cover.
We would therefore like to suggest that the new Agency's remit
is based on Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of
This would provide a clear and coherent framework within which
the new Agency could operate.
In addition, we are concerned by the fact that
plans to extend the remit of the EUMC coincide with parallel plans
to set up a Gender Institute. Our experience as an equal opportunities
body working on equality between women and men is that it is vital
not to disassociate gender from the rest of the equality strands.
We would strongly prefer one integrated European body covering
all equality strands including gender to the current proposal
for two separate bodies, one covering gender and one covering
all other aspects of equality. However, if the current proposals
are pursued it will be essential that each body's remit requires
it to co-operate with the other.
2. In which areas should the Agency operate?
Should these areas be defined in relation to the Charter of Fundamental
Rights of the Union and if so how (by article or by chapter?).
Should certain priorities be established? If so how? How can we
ensure that the current remit of the EUMC (racism and xenophobia)
is maintained and built on?
We advise that the areas in which the Agency
should operate, should be defined in relation to Article 21 of
the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union. In this respect
changing the name of the Agency into "Equality and Fundamental
Rights Agency" would better capture the work of the new Agency.
It is important to set clear priorities without
creating a hierarchy of strands. The Communication gives no indication
of the likely financial resources of the new Agency. The new Agency
should not duplicate work that is already being done on a European
level or national level, but it is equally crucial to ensure that
adequate resources are provided for the Agency to carry out the
ambitious remit that is set out. In this respect we would welcome
clarification on how the Agency will be resourced. Using the budget
of the new PROGRESS program to fund the extended remit of the
EUMC or the new European Gender Institute, for example, would
The Agency should focus on projects that can
offer an added value by adopting an integrated approach and pan-European
approach. This means addressing cross-over issues arising in the
different areas of discrimination and a very close co-operation
with the new Gender Institute to tackle multiple discrimination.
The Agency could for example, in co-operation with the new European
Gender Institute, carry out EU-wide research on the specific problems
facing women with disabilities and suggest possible solutions
or provide examples of best practices.
3. How can the geographic coverage of the
Agency be best defined, bearing in mind the need to avoid overlap
with existing organisations and the need to ensure that the Agency
operates in the most efficient manner possible?
The Agency should limit its scope to current
and candidate European Union member states.
4. Which tasks should the Agency be given?
How can the Agency gather objective, reliable and comparable data
at European level? How can cooperation with Member States and
civil society to obtain this information be best assured? How
should the Agency present its conclusions and recommendations?
How should the work of the Agency be disseminated?
The Communication mentions two tasks: data collection
and the drafting of opinions. We agree that these are important.
However, it is important that the Agency's data collection role
should not be seen as freeing Eurostat from its responsibility
to collect statistics that are disaggregated by sex, race, disability
and so on. The Agency's tasks should ensure that the past work
of the EUMC on racism is not lost or diluted. The Agency should
have the additional tasks of raising awareness on issues of fundamental
rights and equality making policy recommendations and presenting
possible solutions or good practices.
Article 23 clarifies the equality between men and
women further: "Equality between men and women must be ensured
in all areas, including employment, work and pay. The principle
of equality shall not prevent the maintenance or adoption of measures
providing for specific advantages in favour of the under-represented
See: http://www.europarl.eu.int/charter/default en.htm
1 Article 21 prohibits any discrimination based on
any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin,
genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any
other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth,
disability, age or sexual orientation. Back