EU Gender equality strategy 2020-2025

In “A New Push for European Democracy”

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The European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has identified gender equality as a major theme and objective of her Commission (2019-2024). In her political guidelines, she promised a new EU gender equality strategy to underpin this political commitment and support long-term work inside and outside the EU.

The Commission included a proposal for a new EU Strategy on Gender Equality in its work programme for 2020 under the sixth priority - 'A New Push for European Democracy'. The strategy, which takes the form of a Commission Communication, was adopted on 5 March 2020.

The strategy maintains the existing dual emphasis on gender mainstreaming across EU policies and targeted measures to tackle persistent or emerging gender inequalities. It is structured around three priorities:

  • combating gender-based violence and challenging gender stereotypes: here targeted measures include concluding EU accession to the Istanbul Convention, considering legislative measures to address violence against women, launching an EU-wide communication campaign to combat gender stereotypes and ensuring that the European approach to AI is grounded in core EU values, including non-discrimination and gender equality;
  • boosting women’s economic empowerment and ensuring equal opportunities in the labour market, including equal pay: here measures include supporting effective implementation of existing EU legislation (in particular the work-life balance directive) and a proposal for binding pay transparency measures to address the gender pay gap;
  • giving both women and men the opportunity to lead and participate in all sectors of the economy and in political life: here measures will include pushing for the adoption of the 2012 proposal for a Directive on improving the gender balance on corporate boards.

The strategy also addresses 'intersectionality' to take account of the interplay between gender and characteristics such as age, ethnicity, sexual identity and orientation, and disability. Other cross-cutting priorities include the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality and the cumulative impacts of gender inequalities through the life cycle. In respect of external relations, the strategy is complemented by a new gender action plan (referred to as GAP III).

The legislative proposals referred to above are at different stages:

  • During its November 2022 II plenary session Parliament formally adopted new EU legislation on gender balance on company boards. Member states will need to implement the directive two years after it has been adopted.

  • The proposal for a directive on equal pay for equal work between men and women (pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms), put forward by the Commission in March 2021, was adopted by the Parliament  in March 2023 and subsequently by the Council in April 2023, in an amended form after trilogue negotiations.
  • The co-legislators, the European Parliament and the Council (EU Member states), have reached an agreement on the proposal on artificial intelligence, on 8 December 2023.

  • The Commission put forward a proposal for a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence on 8 March 2022. The proposal has been examined jointly by the FEMM and LIBE Commitees, which adopted their report in June 2023. The July Plenary Session decided to go into inter-institutional negotiations based on this report. After several rounds of discussions, the Parliament and Council have not been able to agree on whether the EU has sufficient competences to legislate on certain issues, particularly rape.
  • In May 2023, the EU completed its ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The EU thus becomes a party to the extent of its exclusive competences, as stipulated in the Council decisions.

The European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) adopted an own-initiative report on the gender equality strategy (2019/2169(INI)) (rapporteur, Maria Noichl, S&D, Germany), which was put to plenary in January 2021. Parliament's resolution on the new Gender Equality Strategy welcomes it as a strong sign of political commitment to European gender equality policies and as a clear and ambitious policy framework for achieving women's rights and gender equality, particularly in the light of the recent backlash in this area and the gendered impacts of the pandemic. However, it also asks the Commission to ensure that the strategy is implemented flexibly to respond to new developments and to adopt a roadmap, with time frames, objectives, an annual review and monitoring mechanism, clear and measurable indicators of success and additional targeted actions.

The Council issued conclusions on gender-equal economies in the EU, with a view to providing input into the new gender equality strategy. The German, Portuguese and Slovenian presidencies strongly backed the strategy and stressed the need to adapt it in the light of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The trio programme of the French, Czech and Swedish Presidencies (1 January 2022 -30 June 2023) pledged to make the Union’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 a reality for all. The current trio, Spain, Belgium and Hungary, have also pledged in a common declaration to advance gender equality.

In a 2020 opinion, the European Economic and Social Committee also called on the Commission to ensure that the strategy takes account of the negative repercussions of the COVID crisis for gender equality and to implement the strategy urgently (co-rapporteurs Giulia Barbucci (Workers - Group II, Italy and Indrė Vareikytė (Diversity Europe - Group III, Lithuania). The European Committee of the Regions (2020 opinion, rapporteur: Concepción Andreu Rodríguez, Spain, PES) called for local and regional governments be recognised as strategic partners in the design, implementation and monitoring of the strategy and asked the Commission to establish an interinstitutional working group to ensure multilevel governance.

References

Further reading

Linked legislative train carriages

For information on the European Parliament's previous recommendations for a new gender equality strategy during the 2014-2019 term, see the legislative train carriage, Post-2015 strategy on equality between women and men

Author: Ionel Zamfir, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Read more on the Parliaments' fight for gender equality in the EU

As of 20/01/2024.