Green Euro MP Jean Lambert today spoke at the opening of the official European Year of Equal Opportunities in Berlin and welcomed the move to increase awareness of people's rights to equal treatment and a life free of discrimination.
The launch saw over 450 delegates, including EU ministers, equality bodies, employers and trade unions from across Europe, meet at the first ever European Equality summit, a joint initiative by the European Commission and the German Presidency.
Jean, who sits on the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in the European Parliament and is Green MEP for London, said that 2007 was the perfect opportunity for the EU as a whole to demonstrate how proactive and serious they will be in eliminating discrimination from the workforce. Jean commented; "Discrimination in the workplace and society in general, however small, can often prevent people and communities from accessing opportunities that many people take for granted.
"It is up to society to change their actions and make sure people do not have to face such treatment but it is vital that this is supported and encouraged by the Government. Embarrassingly the UK's year of equal opportunities will start after the rest of Europe as its organising committee for this significant year will not be ready to progress until March 2007, almost 2 months late.
"There is a lot of good practice surrounding equal opportunities in the UK but what we need to see is commitment, organisation and action from the Government to drive this even further forward.
"EU research shows that too many people either don't know equality
legislation exists or what their rights are. This situation needs to change."
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Notes to editors:
Jean Lambert: In October 2005 Jean was named MEP 2005 for Justice and Human Rights. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections. She was re-elected in 2004. She is one of nine MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament.
The European year of equal opportunities aims to:
· Make people more aware of their rights to enjoy equal treatment and a life free of discrimination - irrespective of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation.
· Promote equal opportunities for all.
· Launch a major debate on the benefits of diversity both for European societies and individuals.
Activities during the Year will be organised around four key objectives: rights, representation, recognition and respect.