EU Directive ‘may hit troubled businesses’

The EU has been urged to drop plans to impose a burdensome new Directive on businesses at a time of economic crisis.

The employers’ group Business Europe said the planned Equal Treatment Directive would put extra strain on struggling firms.

The Directive has already raised significant concerns for religious liberty, and MEPs recently voted for changes which, if accepted, could worsen its impact.

The MEPs want to remove exemptions in discrimination law which, for example, allow churches to restrict membership to those who share their beliefs.

Even without the MEPs changes, the Directive would pass to Brussels control over controversial ‘equality’ laws which have already caused problems for Christians in Britain.

Last year Business Europe said the draft Directive did not respect the “subsidiarity and proportionality principles”.

According to these principles, legislation at EU level should only be considered as a last resort when action by national authorities is insufficient.

Now the group’s Director General, Philippe De Buck, has raised his financial concerns about the Directive in a letter to the Czech minister for industry and trade, Vladimir Tošovský.

The Czech government currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

“Today’s crisis does not allow for a business-as-usual attitude to regulatory policy,” warned Mr De Buck in his letter.

“New legislative proposals that risk creating an extra burden on companies should be avoided. Here we call for the anti-discrimination directive to be withdrawn.”

Dutch Green MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg, a key player in the formulation of the Directive, said she was “puzzled” by the concerns, as she did not believe the Directive would be expensive for businesses to implement.

She also said: “What if it would cost money? Are we going to say we should keep discriminating? Ending discrimination is in the wider interest of society.”

The UK Government has employed similar arguments against calls to ditch its Equality Bill because of the strain it would put on businesses to implement it.

The Equalities Office last year said it would not be put on the “back-burner” just because times were “tough”.

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