EU Commission to propose ban on all discrimination

The European Union's executive will put forward a draft law banning all forms of discrimination, including on the grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation, a senior official said on Monday.

"All discrimination is serious and deserves to be fought with the same determination," European Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot told a hearing at the European Parliament.

The 27-nation bloc has already agreed legislation barring racism and xenophobia.

The European Commission had been expected to propose barring discrimination on the grounds of disability, and after lobbying by Euro MPs, this proposal will now be widened to ban all forms of discrimination, Barrot said.

"The charter of fundamental rights is there but it's somewhat far off in a legal sense and it does not stop us using the full European legislative armoury," Barrot said of a set of principles which are binding only for EU institutions.

The assembly was holding a hearing on the change in Barrot's portfolio from transport to justice, freedom and security.

Barrot said the new proposal, to be unveiled early next month, would need unanimity among EU states to be adopted. Other measures were also planned, he said.

"The protection of the individual requires respect for the individual's privacy. The present situation must be improved," Barrot said. "I intend to launch a wide-ranging consultation with a view to tightening data protection," he added.

Barrot said it was important to simplify life for the bloc's 490 million citizens and he would propose a legal framework that allows for mutual recognition between EU states of entitlements, documents and court judgements.

Barrot will also propose a legal framework to allow for mutual recognition of the property implications of marriage and other forms of civil union.

"I have a particular concern for the protection of children, especially in cases of divorce ... I also want to get all the member states to set up a proper mechanism for early warning in cases of child abduction," Barrot added.

A European Criminal Records Information System was needed quickly to learn lessons from the Fourniret case, he added.

Self-confessed killer and rapist Michel Fourniret was sentenced to life in prison last month for crimes committed over 14 years in Belgium and France. It led to a shake up in how different authorities coordinate.