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Cohesion Policy: Member states scrap crucial provision on gender equality

[Brussels, 26 April 2012] The ongoing negotiations on the EU cohesion poliy 2014-2020 took an alerting turn, when EU member states decided to remove a crucial provision on gender equality from the legislative text proposed by the Commission.

The provision on so-called ’general conditionality’ on gender equality would require that all member states have a strategy to promote gender equality in all EU funding programmes part of cohesion policy and establish mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation. In case these conditions are not fulfilled, the Commission could reject the national programmes.

Funding programmes under cohesion policy represent a third of the EU budget, available for the member states to promote social and territorial cohesion and to fund policies that help to exit the crisis. This is the part of the EU budget spent closest to the women and men living in Europe.

Cohesion Policy can help the EU to address gender inequalities at home and in the labour market in all Member States. Currently it is not up to the task. Targeted funding for gender equality is decreasing, and gender mainstreaming is not fully implemented. The Commission’s proposal was a step in the right direction

The Council’s new text is a serious setback in times of crisis and recovery. Taking a gender perspective into account is all the more important: We must be sure that the programmes will not perpetuate the deep-rooted gender inequalities present in all European societies, and aggrevated by the crisis, but deliver equally for women and men.

Together with a coalition of NGOs, the EWL has called upon the Council of the European Union to uphold the general ex-ante conditionalities regarding non-discrimination, gender equality and disability. These ex-ante conditionalities are necessary to remain coherent with the EU Treaties and legal framework. Removing them is against the spirit of the Treaties. Read the statement here.

European Social Fund - good news for gender equality

The Council has also agreed on the general approach to the European Social Fund, which is one of the EU’s main tools to promote equality between women and men at national level. The member states backed up the Commission’s proposal to make it obligatory for the member state to use ESF funding for specific action to promote gender equality, despite the Danish presidency’s proposal earlier this year to weaked gender equality provision in the future ESF legislation.

The proposed text agreed on by the Council implies that gender mainstreaming is not enough to promote equality between women and men, specific action is also needed. At the moment, some member states do not use a singe euro of ESF funding for activities to promote equality between women and men, even if they would have all the reasons to do so.

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