The European Union commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities has started an infringement procedures against Germany and eleven other member states for failing to implement EU equal opportunities legislation correctly.

Vladimir Spidla said that the German government has failed to bring provisions on equal treatment of gay and lesbian partnerships in line with EU directives.

In a letter sent to Berlin at the end of last month the EU commissioner said that the partnership registration scheme available to German same-sex couples do not represent equal rights.

“The “registered lifetime partnership” which gays and lesbians can enter into does not bestow the same privileges as marriage, which remains an option available to heterosexual couples only,” the letter read, according to EurAvtiv.com.

“For example, it does not offer officials the same entitlement to higher pay as under heterosexual marriages and people living in such partnerships are not entitled to receive part of their partner’s pension when he or she dies.”

The registration scheme was instituted in Germany in 2001. It grants immigration, alimony, inheritance and health insurance rights and allows same-sex couples to change their name.

Article 13 of the Treaty of Rome, amended by the 2001 Nice Treaty, states:

“Without prejudice to the other provisions of this Treaty and within the limits of the powers 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 commissioner has also told the German government to provide better job protection for people with disabilities, deal with special rights for churches to hire staff from the own religious community and the liability of employers in cases of discrimination.

According to EurActiv.com:

“All four issues are contentious for the Christian Democrats (CDU) and in particular with their Bavarian branch, the Christian Social Party (CSU),” who make up the majority in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government.

“The Social Democrats, the junior partner in the government, and the social wing of Merkel’s own CDU are both favourable toward stricter standards, while those in Merkel’s party who chiefly support business interests are opposed to more obligations for employers and higher risks in cases of infringement.”

Click here to see the full list of EU nations who are failing to implement the EU Employment Directive.