On the occasion of the Zero Discrimination Day, we reiterate our commitment to combating stigmatization targeting people on the basis of religion, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Many Europeans still face stigma and open discrimination because of who they are, whom they love and what they believe in. These aggressions and crimes violate the basic principles of the European Union – under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU – and undermine efforts to achieve a fairer and more equitable world.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in discriminatory practices. We have witnessed an exacerbation of existing patterns of stigmatization, prejudice and intolerance. As underlined by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović in her speech on the occasion of Human Rights Day 2020, “this pandemic has shown that all those particularly affected, be it older persons, persons with disabilities, women, children, Roma, detainees, migrants, LGBTI people, or media professionals, share a common denominator: their rights were not being fully respected before COVID-19”.
It is therefore paramount « that Europe strengthens the place equality occupies in our societies, starting by giving a more central focus to the principle of equality and non-discrimination in relations to all human rights», as EU Commissioner Helena Dalli declared in her joint statement with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in December 2020. In its recent Conclusions on a Human-Rights-based post COVID-19 recovery, the EU Council expressed its commitment to ensure that its response to the health crisis upholds the dignity and human rights of all without discrimination.
Despite the pandemic, the EU continues to work in synergy with the Council of Europe to combat discrimination and hate speech. The EU Priorities for Cooperation with the Council of Europe 2020-2022 make specific reference to the Union’s commitment to cooperate with the Council of Europe monitoring bodies, such as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), by raising awareness of their actions and promoting the implementation of their recommendations.
This collaboration is reflected in concrete actions in the field. For example in their joint online campaign ‘Block the Hatred. Share the Love’, the EU and the Council of Europe are aiming to promote tolerance, diversity and understanding in the Western Balkans, within the framework of the joint programme Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II. The EU also supports the HELP programme, which offers free tailor-made online courses on human rights, enabling participants to better understand anti-discrimination policies or get legal advice from Council of Europe experts.
The EU is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination and promoting gender equality. In her political guidelines for the European Union, Ursula Von der Leyen indicated that “equality for all and equality in all its senses” was one of the major priorities of her Commission. Putting these guidelines in practice, the EU has adopted the Gender Action Plan III (2021-2025), but also the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy (2020-2025), the Anti-Racism Action Plan for 2020-2025 , the new Roma strategic Framework and the soon to be released European Disability Strategy for 2021-2030.