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Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 07:08 GMT 08:08 UK
EU combats racism
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Europe aims to show a united front against racism
By Shirin Wheeler in Brussels

Europe's first legislation to combat racial discrimination has been approved unanimously by European Union Social Affairs ministers.

It will mean big changes for the majority of EU countries, who currently have little or no specific legal protection against race discrimination.

In countries like Britain and The Netherlands, where legislation is regarded as more advanced, it will still shift the burden of proof in civil cases against employers.

That means if an employee alleges discrimination, it will be up to the accused employer to disprove the charge.

The measure has been resisted by some employers' groups.

The legislation will not just cover discrimination at work but also when buying goods or services, and obtaining social security payments.

It was the first time the European Union has used its new powers which came into force last year to legislate against discrimination.

Plans welcomed

Anti-racism groups have welcomed the plans which they say will also make life easier for people travelling around Europe.

The penalties for discrimination will be left to member states but the directive says they must be effective and could involve compensation payments.

It's taken only a record six months for this proposal to be adopted.

Later this year a second directive is expected to follow, which will cover discrimination in the work place on the grounds of religion, disability, age or sexual orientation.

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10 Dec 99 | UK
Racism probe into CPS
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