Commission raps applicants over gender equality record

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Series Details Vol 7, No.14, 5.4.01, p8
Publication Date 05/04/2001
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Date: 05/04/01

By John Shelley

THE two largest countries applying to join the EU have made no progress in implementing sex equality legislation over the past year, according to a report by social affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou.

Diamantopoulou's annual paper on equal opportunities says neither Poland nor Turkey introduced a single piece of community legislation in the field during 2000.

All candidate countries have promised to put in place nine EU sex equality laws to bring them into line with Union standards as part of their preparations for joining the bloc.

Warsaw had promised to finish the process by the end of 2002, but the report states that the deadline "now seems somewhat optimistic".

While several candidate countries still have a long way to go in implementing women's rights legislation, Poland and Turkey are the only ones not to have made any progress during 2000.

Slovakia, for example, last year relaxed a ban on women working at night and outlawed job advertisements that discriminate on gender grounds.

Latvia and Malta also have a long way to go to meet their objectives, but both passed or drafted some of the necessary rules in 2000.

Warsaw's shortcomings will add fuel to increasing fears that Poland will fail to meet its own target of being ready for joining the bloc in 2003.

The country's performance is seen as particularly important because its entry in the first wave of enlargement is regarded as politically essential.

Diamantopoulou's spokesman Andrew Fielding said: "There can be no transition periods on equal ops. Equal opportunities are a fundamental right and as such EU law in this area must be fully in place and operational the moment the candidate countries join the EU."

The Polish performance contrasts sharply with that of the Czech Republic and Lithuania, both of which had all but one of the laws in place by the end of last year. Hungary is expected to implement the necessary legislation by the end of this year.

Turkey has not yet set firm dates for when it will put into effect its sex equality laws.

The equal opportunities report also reviews existing member states. Its figures show that the female employment rate of 53% is still 18% below the rate for males; Spain and Italy fare particularly poorly with women's job rates below 40%.

But Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK all already achieved a female employment rate of 60% - the benchmark set at the Lisbon summit last year.

The report highlights that pay for women across the Union is still significantly less than men's. German women are the least well paid compared to men, although the report's findings in this case rely on figures dating from 1996.

The two largest countries applying to join the EU have made no progress in implementing sex equality legislation over the past year, according to a report by Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou.

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