New EU Strategy for gender equality has potential to deliver results, says European Women’s Lobby
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union, today welcomed the launch of the EU’s much anticipated new five year strategy for equality between women and men. ‘A number of crucial issues are dealt with in this new document and some concrete actions are outlined’, said Myria Vassiliadou, Secretary General of the EWL; ‘what is less clear at this stage are the ways in which the Strategy translates the Women’s Charter [which President Barroso and Vice President Viviane Reding launched back in March] into binding measures.’
Women’s rights groups are positive towards the envisaged annual top-level Gender Equality Dialogue amongst key stakeholders and stress the importance of the presence of key women’s organisations at such fora. On the other hand, the EWL is concerned that the new Strategy does not envisage new legislation or binding measures to achieve progress on gender equality. The success of the Strategy therefore will depend on how it will be implemented. The EWL calls for concrete deliverables to ensure women’s rights: ‘It is very important that the Strategy ensures the inclusion of strong gender equality measures in European socio-economic policies prescribed in the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy’, insisted Ms. Vassiliadou. ‘We also want legislation on all forms of violence against women, and a dedicated European Year to prioritise this issue. We are confident that Vice President Reding will deliver results on all these fronts.’
Concerns for gender equality advocates also include the absence of sexual and reproductive health and rights from the document and the need for complementarity between the EU’s internal and external policies as regards women’s rights, especially in this area.
The EWL warmly welcomed Commissioner Reding’s announcement that she will consider introducing quotas to get more women into boardrooms: ‘Progress towards the equal representation of women and men in decision-making has been frustratingly slow, and we are very happy to see the Commission taking the lead and considering the introduction of binding measures to change this. We hope this will also apply to the public sector, starting with the European institutions themselves’, said Ms. Vassiliadou.
The Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010-2015 follows up on the European Commission’s Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men 2006-2010, which was accompanied by a Gender Pact endorsed by the 27 member states. The EWL has stressed the importance of coordinated action on gender equality at the European and national levels, calling for strong, visible and well-resourced coordination mechanisms within the European Commission as well as renewed commitment at the national level. According to Ms. Vassiliadou, ‘A political commitment for progress on behalf of the Commission is of course very welcome; at the same time, we must move beyond rhetoric on this issue. First of all, member states need to implement the legislation already in place, and the Commission needs to monitor this process and take legal action when countries are in violation of their obligations.’ The EWL is confident that the current and incoming EU Presidencies will ensure a strong mechanism of endorsement of the new Strategy by the member states, reminding them that they need to commit to a proactive Strategy to promote equality between women and men, including concrete targets in such areas as the gender pay gap, care services and women in decision-making.