By Hilary White

BRUSSELS, February 13, 2008 ( – The European Union has criticised those member states that have not lived up to the requirements of EU rules on “discrimination” relating to homosexuality and other issues. The EU commission for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities has initiated legal procedures against those countries that have failed to implement its legislation. The commission’s memo covered areas of discrimination in the case of age and disability as well as sexual orientation.

Germany was particularly singled out with a letter complaining that the country’s same-sex civil union registration does not sufficiently match the rights granted couples in natural marriages.

“The ‘registered lifetime partnership’ which gays and lesbians can enter into does not bestow the same privileges as marriage, which remains an option available to heterosexual couples only,” the letter read.

Estonia, France, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the Czech Republic were listed in a memo that detailed those countries’ failings in living up to the EU’s definitions and directives for “discrimination” legislation. The memo by the Commissioner, Vladimir Spidla, sets out in minute detail the transgressions of each of these countries and warns that a “reasoned opinion or letter of formal notice” will be sent to each.

In regards to Finland, the memo, issued January 31, said that the “ban on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is not guaranteed for public service workers.” The Netherlands was chastised for having “exceptions for employment in a church or religious association” that are “broader than authorised by the Directive.” In Malta, one of the most Catholic countries on earth, the legal protection against “victimisation in the public sector” fails to include “discrimination on grounds of age or sexual orientation.”

A “letter of formal notice” has been sent to Germany and “complementary letters of formal notice” to Latvia and Lithuania.

The Dutch newspaper deVolkskrant said this means that if these countries do not comply with the EU directives, the Commissioner will begin proceedings against these governments at the European Court of Justice.

The governments have two months to alter their laws or they could face fines.

Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said, “A lot has already been done by Member States to ensure that people have a right to be treated equally in employment. But in some cases legislation still needs to be improved if those rights are to be put into practice.”

“Equal treatment in employment is crucial for people to have a fair chance of contributing to the economy and participating in social life. But the EU Directives cannot reach their full potential if they are not fully and correctly transposed into national laws.”