The Amsterdam Treaty, signed on 2 October 1997, includes a non-discrimination clause empowering European institutions to take measures to combat discrimination based on various grounds. This article reads as follows: “Without prejudice to the other provisions of this treaty and within the limits of the powers that conferred by it upon the Community, the Council, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament, may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”
The introduction of a clause of this nature into the Treaty signifies an enormous step forward for all those fighting for the elimination of discrimination or for equality of treatment in various areas. It enables European institutions to take “necessary measures” in practice to combat certain types of discrimination. As such, when the European Court of Justice forbade the European Community to sign the European Convention on Human Rights in its own right, fighting discrimination merely became a matter of political goodwill. Although the struggle against discrimination is dealt with in Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, this article only protects pre-existing rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights and is limited in its application to circumstances where there is a breach or alleged breach of another right or liberty described in the Convention.