E.U. presses Malta to ban discrimination

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 13 2003 12:00 AM ET

In maintaining European Union directives against discrimination, an E.U. Commission is pressing the government of Malta to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, reports The [London] Independent. Although Maltese labor laws ban discrimination in principle, an E.U. Council directive identifies gays and lesbians as being at a higher risk of being discriminated against at work and grants them special protection. The same directive prohibits discrimination based on age, disability, race, and religion or belief. "I confirm there is a need to have all grounds covered by the directive to be spelt out specifically in Maltese law," said the head of the European Commission Employment and Social Affairs Directorate General, Odile Quintin, last Thursday.

The E.U. directive also refers to trade unions and professional associations, obliging them not to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Quintin was in Malta last week to review the progress made by the Maltese government in adopting the social and employment regulations of the E.U. prior to accession. In a joint press conference held last Thursday with social policy minister Lawrence Gonzi, Quintin made it clear that the commission expects the Maltese government to adopt the E.U. directive in its entirety.

But the Maltese government is refusing to adopt the full directive, arguing that existing legislation is enough to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians at the place of work. "All forms of discrimination--including discrimination based on sexual orientation or on age, ethnic origin, or racial grounds--are illegal, and the interpretation given by the Attorney General of the law that has
been passed in parliament is that the clause as drafted covers all these areas," Gonzi said. "The issue that has been discussed is whether we need to mention these areas specifically. The opinion of legal experts given to us here in Malta is that we do not need to be specific; the clause mentions some areas as examples but it does not exclude all the other areas."

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