Regional Law and Standards
last updated 17 December 2007

At the regional level, the Council of Europe (COE) and the European Union (EU) (formerly referred to as the European Community) are the two institutions that draft legally binding law and policy concerning sexual harassment that is currently applicable to some countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the former Soviet Union (FSU). Both institutions have included language about sexual harassment in legally binding documents. Under EU and COE law and policy, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and a violation of an employee's right to "dignity" in the workplace.

Of the countries in the CEE and FSU regions, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Ukraine are members of the Council of Europe.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the European Union on May 1 2004. Bulgaria and Romania joined on January 1 2007. While negotiating their accession to the European Union, these countries took steps to harmonize their laws with those of the European Union or made promises to complete this harmonization process prior to accession. In many cases, these countries have prioritized the adoption of legislation that is compliant with EU obligations in the area of gender equality over the fulfillment of other international obligations, e.g. obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the European Social Charter. Nevertheless, the EU accession process and the bargaining power of the EU Commission have become powerful catalysts for legislative and policy change benefiting women in the CEE region. It is noteworthy that many EU accession countries in the CEE region have adopted and are beginning to enforce legislation relating to sex discrimination, including sexual harassment. Many EU accession countries are also establishing institutional mechanisms to monitor compliance with and enforce gender equality laws. However, these important legal changes have not yet “translated into a meaningful impact on the daily lives of men and women” in the CEE region, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. See Open Society Institute, Equal Opportunities for Women and Men: Monitoring Law and Practice in New Member States and Accession Countries of the European Union, 2005For more information on these recent developments, see the Country Pages accessible on the left hand margin of this page. Adapted from Genoveva Tisheva, Gender Equality Institutions in the Candidate Countries—A Requirement in the EU Accession Process (26 March 2003).