On 2 July 2008 the EU Commission issued a draft directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey conducted in February/March of this year, Europeans believe that discrimination remains a serious problem in their countries, particularly when it comes to sexual orientation, disability, age and religion. The proposed Directive will ensure that there is European-wide standard of protection against discrimination. The Directive will extend protection against discrimination to the provision of goods and services.

While the implementation of the anti discrimination rules between 2000 and 2004 had only limited effects, GDV, the German Association of Insurers, has warned that this may change significantly if the current draft directive is to be adopted without amendments. Certainly, argue the GDV, premium increases are to be expected.

The Directive expands the anti discrimination rules to other spheres of life than just the employment market, and the ban of discrimination shall apply the health care and cover criteria such as age and disability.

The directive provides an exemption to the principle of equal treatment to the extent that insurers may treat policyholders differently according to age and disability as long as such distinction is justified on the basis of a risk assessment based upon accurate statistical data. Individual medical information and previous experience cannot be included in the risk assessment. The association warns that this may even result in decline of cover as individual medical assessments were crucial. GDV has appealed to the EU Council and Parliament to drop the limitations on the medical risk assessment for insurers.

For further information on the EU’s proposals: Proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation