[Brussels, 25 April 2016] On Monday 18 April 2016, a special event took place in Brussels at the historical feminist building “Amazone” in the district of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode. Activists from two women’s organisations came together to exchange over the challenges and backlashes that EU’s Enlargement to the East, in Central European, Baltic and Western Balkan States have generated as regards women’s rights.
The EWL task force for Central European, Baltic and Balkan States, together with Kvinna Till Kvinna’sWestern Balkans Group, shared a joined session on how to keep gendering the EU Enlargement and how to respond to the difficult political scenarios in their countries.
Participants shared their concerns about the intensification of right-wing nationalistic discourses which are not only a threat to more contemporary fights for women’s rights, but are also eroding what we have conquered and fought for in the past. We particularly referred to the attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Poland where an aggressive law to make abortion illegal was put forward. This meeting took therefore place at a very crucial time to support the work of women’s organisations to help them respond to those challenges.
- Discussion groups EWL
At first, participants had the possibility to discuss in groups sharing information on who they are and their experience on EU enlargement. They explored common experiences and highlighted key concerns which allowed them to prepare questions for the guests invited for the second part of the afternoon.
- MEP Ulrike Lunacek EWL
MEP Ulrike Lunacek joined the afternoon session and enlightened the room with an inspiring key-note speech sharing her 20-years’ experience as a feminist activist. She stressed that the role of parliaments is very important and that we need parliaments to cooperate more with civil society:
“Civil society needs to push; we have still a lot of people to convince. We do have some good laws; the problem is their implementation in some countries.”
The role of the European Union is important but stuck very often at “Copenhagen dilemma” i.e. subsidiarity principles. We should be able to create a stronger European Union in the field of human rights and we should be able to be in a real democracy – where criticism matters and politicians are not afraid of it – pointed out Ms Lunaceck.
- Panel 1 EWL
Karolina Vrethem, Policy Officer on Gender Equality at DG Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement (European Commission), spent all afternoon with us taking part in the working groups. She was rather optimistic on the inclusion of gender equality throughout the accession process and acknowledged the improvements that took place since 2004 enlargement period. Although there are some difficulties to recognize women as a specific group from policy-makers, a conversation on gender equality exists and we should persist and build from that.
- Panel 2 EWL
MEP Jasenko Selimovic (Sweden, ALDE) also joined us. He pointed out that only by including women in position of powers, long lasting peace will be achieved. Women were great survivors during the war in the Balkans (1991 – 1999) and they were victims of atrocities. Still, they were not included in the peace processes and could not speak about what they had lived and this need to stop. Mr. Selimovic personally committed to include the representation of women’s organisations in political his agenda.
18th April was the first step towards a possible cooperation between the two organisations. Our EWL task force for East Central European, Baltic and Balkan States was initially created to let our members share information and learn amongst themselves, identify gaps but also find synergies. With this event, EWL members demonstrated they can actually go beyond the initial purpose and think bigger and act at a larger scale as they can create opportunities for future partnerships to advance gender equality in those regions and Europe as a whole. It might be harder to influence policy makers but “creating alliances” do make us louder!
- Support with women in Poland EWL
EWL members & friends in #solidarity with women in Poland, against the proposed abortion ban #ODZYSKACWYBOR #MyBodyMyRights