EU countries scrap ethics clause in EU funds
25.04.12 @ 18:15
BRUSSELS - Foreign ministers at the general affairs council in Brussels on Tuesday (24 April) excised an anti-discrimination clause from the European Commission's cohesion policy proposal for 2014-20.
The cohesion policy, described by European Parliament president Martin Schultz on Wednesday, as "a tremendous success for Europe," is designed to invest in projects ranging from job creation to improving infrastructure.
It represents more than a third - or about €347 billion - of the current EU seven-year budget.
The commission's anti-discrimination conditionality would have required member states - in order to access the EU funds - to guarantee the needs of the disabled or any other group commonly discriminated against. This includes women, gay people, disabled people and religious minorities.
On gender equality, the commission wanted member states to create national bodies with the authority to analyse gender-related issues. Theses bodies would have helped identify country-specific issues to ensure women receive fair treatment in various walks of life.
"Member states talk about the importance of gender equality and gender mainstreaming but don't apply this in practice. The commission's proposals would have forced them to do so," said Anna Elomaki, a policy officer at the Brussels-based European's Women Lobby (EWL).
Carlotta Besozzi, director of the Brussels-based European Disability Forum, told EUobserver that "civil society regrets that so far none of the member states wants to promote anti-discrimination, gender equality and disability, as conditions to receive the money."
Without the anti-discrimination clause, EU funds used to finance the construction of a public administrative building would no longer be required to make it wheel-chair accessible, for instance.
Ministers decided to keep two conditions for anyone wishing to access the European Social Fund (ESF), however - on Roma and on gender.
The ESF, a part of the cohesion basket, is worth some €75 billion and is to require member states to set "achievable" national goals in education, employment, healthcare and housing for Roma people.
Member states also agreed to promote gender-equality if they wish to access ESF funds. This clause scraped just through - the Danish EU presidency had earlier in the year proposed removing the ESF-gender condition altogether, says Elomaki.
The European Parliament has yet to start negotiations with the council. Its rapporteur on structural funds, German centre-left MEP Constanze Angela Krehl, is widely expected to re-introduce the commission conditions.
She is to table her amendments in late May.
"Every member state should be ready and willing to eliminate inequalities and combat discrimination. The deletion of the relevant paragraphs by the council is therefore not acceptable and will surely be raised within the future negotiations with the parliament," she told EUobserver.