Women in the Western Balkans: Gender equality in the EU accession process

18-07-2018

Equality between women and men, or gender equality, is a fundamental right and a common value, recognised by the EU. It has been a component of the European integration project from its outset. Enshrined in the EU Treaties, gender equality forms part of the accession conditions with which candidate and potential candidates from the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia) have to comply. Investing in gender equality, however, is essential not only as an EU requirement, but for an equal society. Although progress has been noted in these countries as regards gender equality, more work is still required. Equal opportunities would allow EU candidate countries to better tap into the potential and skills of women, and underpin achievements in areas such as economic growth, employment and social cohesion, as well as in peace-building. As part of their preparation for an EU future, the Western Balkan countries have taken steps to advance women's rights in recent years. These include adopting or amending relevant legislation (e.g. criminal and labour laws), elaborating national strategies and action plans, and establishing institutional mechanisms to carry out and monitor relevant policies. Nevertheless, promoting gender equality is often sidelined, and the action taken in this respect is insufficient. Ensuring equality between women and men remains 'unfinished business' in a region where traditional gender roles are deep-rooted and social attitudes and lack of awareness of women's rights are at the core of the problem. This Briefing aims to highlight the EU's efforts to promote gender equality as part of EU enlargement policy, and the way the EU strives to mainstream equality across the board. It also aims to cast light on some major challenges that women face in the Western Balkans, such as their weaker roles in economy and politics, and widespread gender-based violence. This follows up the June 2017 briefing on 'Rights and empowerment of women in the Western Balkans'.

Equality between women and men, or gender equality, is a fundamental right and a common value, recognised by the EU. It has been a component of the European integration project from its outset. Enshrined in the EU Treaties, gender equality forms part of the accession conditions with which candidate and potential candidates from the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia) have to comply. Investing in gender equality, however, is essential not only as an EU requirement, but for an equal society. Although progress has been noted in these countries as regards gender equality, more work is still required. Equal opportunities would allow EU candidate countries to better tap into the potential and skills of women, and underpin achievements in areas such as economic growth, employment and social cohesion, as well as in peace-building. As part of their preparation for an EU future, the Western Balkan countries have taken steps to advance women's rights in recent years. These include adopting or amending relevant legislation (e.g. criminal and labour laws), elaborating national strategies and action plans, and establishing institutional mechanisms to carry out and monitor relevant policies. Nevertheless, promoting gender equality is often sidelined, and the action taken in this respect is insufficient. Ensuring equality between women and men remains 'unfinished business' in a region where traditional gender roles are deep-rooted and social attitudes and lack of awareness of women's rights are at the core of the problem. This Briefing aims to highlight the EU's efforts to promote gender equality as part of EU enlargement policy, and the way the EU strives to mainstream equality across the board. It also aims to cast light on some major challenges that women face in the Western Balkans, such as their weaker roles in economy and politics, and widespread gender-based violence. This follows up the June 2017 briefing on 'Rights and empowerment of women in the Western Balkans'.