EP Socialists want more gender equality through the EU budget

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The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament noted that only 21.7% of EU programmes had gender-related indicators in the last pluriannual EU budget for the period 2014-2020. This means equality was only written into about €236 billion out of the total €1087 billion in the EU budget, according to S&D MEP Margarida Marques, the host of the webinar and the European Parliament’s negotiator with the other EU institutions for the new pluriannual EU budget. The S&D parliamentarians will monitor how the €1.8 trillion of the EU budget and the Next Generation EU recovery package are spent on policies that promote gender equality during the new period 2021-2027.

In a webinar on ‘Gender mainstreaming in the EU budget’, with the participation of the European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, MEPs discussed how to ensure that EU funds benefit men and women equally, and the implementation of this equality principle as a horizontal policy throughout all areas financed by the EU budget.

For the next budget, some improvements are on the cards. From 2022, Horizon Europe funding applications by public bodies, research organisations and higher education institutions will only be considered if they have a gender equality plan (GEP). The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) had been particularly vociferous in calling for the mainstreaming of gender in the EU budget. In a report carried out by the same Institute, it was noted how for all the funds studied, gender mainstreaming and references were often included in the chapter on “horizontal themes” but had very little impact on the content of specific programmes. This was translated into a lack of gender-sensitive targets and gender indicators. Estimations pointed out that only approximatively 0.6% of ERDF and 5,3% of ESF budgets were earmarked for gender equality measures.

According to GenderAction, an EU-funded project which has the objective to map and analyse Members States’ progress towards implementation of gender equality in EU funds, the new programming period brings a window of opportunity for including specific targets addressing gender inequalities according to regional needs, which starts with planning with a gender perspective: “All Policy Objectives are impacted by gender, but managing authorities need specific instruments and resources to plan the allocation of funding with a dual approach, this is, combining gender mainstreaming with specific gender equality measures and targets. The same applies to gender equality bodies that support other institutions in their work”.

GenderAction has called for gender impact indicators, saying these are key for monitoring effectiveness of gender mainstreamed programming and should be included in all types of actions, for example, in the investment on infrastructure or training. Defining sex-disaggregated indicators new operational programmes is paramount to ensure correct monitoring.

Heléne Fritzon, Swedish S&D MEP and vice-president of the S&D Group, said that: “The EU’s resources must be allocated to promote gender equality and equal opportunities for all women and girls to enjoy their human rights. Despite being a fundamental value of the EU, enshrined in the treaties, gender equality has not yet been achieved in practice. We, the Socialists and Democrats, will continue to fight for an EU that fully commits to this cause and translates all commitments into concrete policies and allocation of resources. The budget is not only an important tool for gender equality. It is necessary that we use gender budgeting if we want to realise our objectives and build a strong and sustainable Europe. Gender equality is not just a women’s issue – it benefits everyone and our society.”