More EU regulation is not the way to combat discrimination

16 October 2008

More EU regulation is not the way to combat discrimination

Last week an opinion piece by Kathalijne Buitenweg, Member of the European Parliament for the small pro-EU Dutch parliamentary party Green Left, appeared in a number of regional newspapers. Buitenweg's article dealt with the imminent European Union directive on combating discrimination on the grounds of belief, age, disability or sexual orientation. In it she expressed her concerns over the fact that in the national parliament this directive is meeting resistance and that some of this resistance is coming from the SP. The nuances of this 'resistance', however, escaped her, as the SP's only problem with the proposal concerns 'subsidiarity' rather than its actual content. In plain words, the SP does not see this as an appropriate measure for the European Union to take, and believes that it must remain the responsibility of member states, every one of which has already signed the European Declaration of Human Rights, and of our own national authorities, in a country which already outlaws all of these forms of discrimination.

by Kartika Liotard

Kartika LiotardYes, the SP is against unnecessary interference from the EU. But no, the SP is most certainly not against the thinking behind the proposed EU directive. During my five-year mandate in the European Parliament I have continually worked in support of measures to put an end to discrimination, including offering my support to colleagues and interest groups in the member states and playing an active part in their actions against discrimination. I have repeatedly voted in favour of proposals which seek to put an end to discrimination both inside and outside the workplace, proposals which present no danger of a slide downhill to a European average.

Buitenweg's attacks, on her weblog, claim that I have not kept my electoral promise and do not vote consistently. I find such accusations extremely regrettable. It's unfortunate that she should first accuse a party which has always been and remains her ally in the fight against every form of discrimination of forming a "monstrous alliance" with right-wing parties, and then that she should target me personally.

I would like to assure Kathalijne Buitenweg that I support her idea of making a common statement in favour of the ideas behind the directive and thus against discrimination and would like to put this into practice. The proposed directive sounds extremely sympathetic, but I have my doubts as to whether it respects subsidiarity.

More regulation at European level sounds all very fine, in theory. But in practice this will never lead, for example, to a real man in a real situation ceasing to discriminate against his lesbian neighbours. People see 'Brussels' often as distant from their lives, and if they are to be told from there how they should think, this will have little effect. My preference, then, is not to begin by making more Brussels regulation but rather to offer effective support, for example with one's presence, to interest groups in the member states. This is what happened in the Portuguese referendum, when the people voted 'yes' to a proposal to remove abortion from the criminal law.

Kartika Liotard is a Member of the European Parliament for the SP

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