Transforming EU Equality Law: On Disruptive Narratives and False Dichotomies

The adoption of the Race Equality Directive (2000/43/EC), the Framework Directive (2000/78/EC) and the Gender Directive on goods and services (2004/113/EC) radically transformed the landscape of EU non-discrimination law. From a means to advance market integration, non-discrimination law is said to have evolved towards a genuine fundamental right of equality. Yet, the CJEU’s efforts to give substance to the newly invigorated non-discrimination general principle have met political backlash. At the same time, the reforms have lastingly established an equality hierarchy among protected grounds of discrimination. This paper thus interrogates the transformation of equality from a byproduct of market integration to a genuine fundamental human right to equality. It deconstructs the official disruptive narrative and argues that non-discrimination law, confronted with political pushback, has transformed into a hybrid principle that effectively performs the liberal mandate entrusted to the EU.