EWL Priorities for the Danish Presidency of the European Union, January-June 2012

[Brussels, November 2011] On 01 January 2012, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) will pass from Poland to Denmark. The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest association of women’s organisations in Europe with more than 2000 member organisations. The EWL calls on the Danish Presidency to be a driving force for women’s rights in Europe despite the current financial, economic and social crisis. Both at the European and the national level, we witness how the crisis is used to cut funding for women’s rights and gender equality-related activities and institutions and how these issues are losing visibility and focus. These cuts also threaten the very existence of women´s organisations. Women’s NGOs are needed for the development of quality democracy, growth and welfare. This trend not only risks jeopardising recent progress; it also risks creating serious backlashes regarding for example the support and prevention of violence against women, the promotion of women’s economic independence or fighting against negative gender stereotypes.

The EWL calls on the Danish Presidency to ensure that – in the context of the negotiations on the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 – adequate, predictable and sustainable funding is allocated to promoting equality between women and men. We also would like to see progress in the adoption of the gender-related legislation currently on the table and in the full integration of a women’s rights perspective in all European social and economic policies, including the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The EWL also expresses its expectation that the Danish Presidency will provide progressive and ambitious leadership to the Council of the European Union in its policy and legislative tasks, in relation to issues related to women’s human rights, in particular the fight against all forms of male violence against women and the guarantee of women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

The European Women’s Lobby calls on the Danish Presidency to:

1. Ensure continuous visibility, support and focus to women’s rights and gender equality issues. In particular, within the on-going negotiations on the EU Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 and the sector-specific funding programmes, take steps to ensure there is no degradation in the level and predictability of EU funding for activities on women’s rights and gender equality, including combating violence against women, as related to both internal and external policies.

2. Take a leadership role in the Council negotiations aiming at reaching an agreement on the revision of the maternity leave Directive. This revision should include the increase of maternity leave provisions from 14 weeks to 20 weeks and the introduction of two weeks’ leave for new fathers, both fully paid, as provided for in the legislative Resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 20 October 2010.

3. Ensure the adoption of a comprehensive proposal for a European Strategy on eradicating all forms of male violence against women in the EU, as promised by the European Commission and demanded by the Council in March 2010, including the establishment of a European Year to end violence against women, and call on the European Commission and the Council to work on legal instruments as part of this Strategy for a Europe free from all forms of male violence against women (including prostitution and trafficking in women).

4. Ensure that all women benefit from the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular women from vulnerable groups who are at risk of discriminatory practices (forced sterilisation, sexual and genital mutilation, lack of access to safe abortion, lack of access to family planning, discrimination in the access to Assisted Reproductive Technologies, etc.), and guarantee sexual education and information for all young people in Europe.

5. Promote a progressive discussion on binding positive action measures as the most efficient way to reach the equal representation of women and men in political and economic decision-making. In particular, work towards consensus between the EU Member States on the necessity of binding EU-level legislation to reach gender balance on company boards and ensure an efficient follow-up of EC Vice-President Reding’s forthcoming proposal regarding EU action in this field.

6. Ensure that the promotion of equality between women and men, including the economic independence of women as an important condition for equality between women and men; quality employment for women and men; tackling the gender pay and pension gaps; social and health services; and sustainable social development, including the target to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty is at the core of the implementation, reporting and monitoring mechanisms of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

7. Take a leadership role in the Council negotiations in order to progress towards the adoption of the draft Directive on combating discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation building on the European Parliament Resolution and the proposals made by the EWL and anti-discrimination networks. In the context of the follow-up to the European Pact for gender equality, initiate debate on the ‘need to examine the causes of multiple discrimination and (to) explore effective ways of eliminating it.’

8. Ensure strong links between the European Union and its Member States and relevant processes that take place in international institutions, in particular the ratification by the EU and Member States of the Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women, more focus on the legally-binding CEDAW Convention and adequate support, including financial pledges to UN Women entity.

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