9th Aug 2022

Three countries step up fight to host EU gender institute

The European Parliament gave the go-ahead to the newly proposed EU gender institute on Tuesday (14 March).

The institute is supposed to gather and analyse information about gender-related issues - such as equality of men and women in the labour market or in politics - and distribute it to other EU institutions.

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Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania are now preparing to step up their lobbying to be host to the institute which will have an annual budget of around €8 million.

Ljubljana has been campaigning to have the institute for some months and its officials are confident they will get it.

"Slovenia is well known for defending gender equality and for quite positive results in society in terms of women's representation," gender policies official Violeta Neubauer from the Slovenian government told the EUobserver.

The country is promoting its candidacy by referring to its geographical position close to other Balkan countries which aim to join the EU, and which also consider gender policies a great challenge.

But Lithuania hopes its closeness to the Scandinavian countries will be its key strength in the battle, while Slovakia is hoping Bratislava will be chosen for its proximity to the Vienna-based EU agency for fundamental rights.

Gather facts and influence policies

Ahead of Tuesday's plenary vote by MEPs, social policy commissioner Vladimir Spidla argued equality between men and women is crucial not only politically, but also "as a key factor to boost Europe's stance in global competition."

According to a recent commission report, women still face a 15 percent pay gap compared to men, mainly because they often take lower-paid and part-time jobs.

"We already have information about these tendencies but they are not taken on board when policies are formulated and this is what the new institute should achieve," said Mr Spidla.

Flagship for gender policy?

A majority of MEPs welcomed the institute and urged the commission and national governments to hurry with setting it up.

German socialist rapporteur Lissy Groner argued the institute would not be a great financial burden for the EU, as "it would operate efficiently as a small centre of excellence."

But British liberal MEP Sarah Ludford said there is no need for a brand new body to deal with the issue, preferring instead a special section of the EU agency for fundamental rights, like the Anti-Racism Monitoring Centre which is part of the Vienna agency.

"It seems to me quite defensive to say that you need a separate institute to ensure that gender equality remains high on the EU political agenda," she said.

However, several deputies from countries interested in hosting the new institute responded coolly to such comments, arguing that gender issues would be snowed under in the multi-task Vienna agency.

The seat, composition and other details of the functioning of the new body must be agreed by member states.

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