EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Parliament on Thursday (2 April) passed a bill banning discrimination against people on the basis of age, disability, sexual orientation, belief or religion in the areas of education, social security, health care and goods and services.
The draft law was passed on Thursday (2 April) by 363 votes in favour and 226 against after the left wing and liberal MEPs clubbed together to back the legislation. Many centre-right MEPs were against the proposal saying it would lead to too much red tape.
"Despite the obvious benefits of greater equality in all areas of society, it has taken months of hard work to win support for the new legislation in the European Parliament," said the author of the report, Dutch green MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg.
Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in ´t Veld said: "Today the European Parliament will emphasize that it does not matter if you are black or white, gay or heterosexual, religious, disabled, young or old. Europe will protect your freedom and will make sure that you will get all the possibilities you deserve to make something of your life."
Expressing doubts about the legislation in the run-up to the vote, German conservative MEP Manfred Weber said the parliament's centre-right faction fears "the additional red-tape which would be generated by this new directive.
Many of its regulations are not favourable to all parties involved, including disabled people," he added.
The bill covers areas such as banking, transport and health but transactions between private individuals that are not commercial or professional are excluded.
The European Union has since 2000 prohibited these forms of discrimination at work, but legal protection in the realms of public services, buying products or making use of commercial services was not covered.
The bill is expected to come before member states in the second half of this year, with the forthcoming Swedish EU presidency recently saying it plans to prioritise the issue.
It needs the approval of all 27 governments if it is to come into force in the EU.