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15th Dec 2019

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Binding measures to expand gender balance

  • Chairwoman Evelyn Regner (S&D, Austria) wants concrete action on gender balance from the women's rights and gender equality committee (Photo: European Parliament)

There is a need to expand gender balance in the political and economic sphere, and this can only be achieved by binding measures, the chair of the commintee on women's rights and gender equality, Austrian MEP Evelyn Regner told EUobserver.

"The time for well-intentioned but ineffective declarations of intent has to be over. It's time that women are finally financial independent, because many other forms of inequality derive from not being independent," the social democrat politician said.

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"It is precisely in dependency-relationships that a dramatic gap in power and representation manifests itself," she added.

According to figures from the EU's statistics agency, Eurostat, there are considerable differences between EU countries.

The gender pay gap ranging from less than eight percent in Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia to more than 20 percent in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia and the UK.

Regner said an understanding must be established that "real equality requires action in all political areas: in short, gender mainstreaming".

It means that all policy concepts or planned actions should be assessed at all stages by how it effects different genders. The EU treaty commits to eliminating inequalities and promoting the principle of equality between women and men.

The gender mainstreaming amendments have allowed the women's rights and gender equality committee (FEMM) to introduce a gender perspective into the reports of other committees on specific issues.

"We will take concrete action regarding income equality, work-life balance and the fight against violence against women," Regner added.

In the next five years the priority will be producing more, and binding, measures to promote gender equality.

"We must achieve a binding EU gender equality strategy," Regner said, pointing to a recently published equality index by the European Institute for Gender Equality.

The report said that the EU continues at a snail's pace when it comes to gender equality progress.

The report said that Sweden continues to top the EU scoreboard for gender equality, followed by Denmark, and with Greece and Hungary having the most catching-up to do. The biggest improvement was achieved by Portugal and Estonia.

"We have a quite clear understanding of the existing layers of inequality reaching from the economic situation to political representation and the social situation of women in Europe," Regner said, referring to the report.

"The verdict is clear, we need to take more measures faster. The status quo in matters of equality is far from satisfactory," she said.

Regner expects that the most divisive issues will be all matters "touching upon sexual and reproductive rights of women", which show "a clear divide between member states and political groups".

"It shows that women's rights are at risk once again. What has been achieved can easily be lost again. In this regard, I want to strengthen the role of the European parliament as a guarantor of women's rights in Europe," she said.

Regner added that what often lies behind the regression is a misconception of what family means.

"They say 'father, mother, child - happily ever after'. But what these people actually want when they deny women free access to health care, instigate campaigns against education and contraception, and dismiss sexual violence as mere 'relationship problems', is to take control of women's lives and bodies," the MEP said.

Yet the world is so colourful, she added, saying there are many different ways of life. "And basically, that is what it's all about. That everyone is able to lead their lives without compulsion, pressure or fear", Regner added.

The chairwoman is Evelyn Regner (S&D, Austria), and the vice-chairs: Eugenia Rodriguez Palop (Spain, GUE/NGL), Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Greens/EFA, France), Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi (EPP, Greece), Robert Biedron (S&D, Poland).

Coordinators (to be confirmed): Frances Fitzgerald (EPP, Ireland), Maria Noichl (S&D, Germany), Irene Tolleret (Renew, France), Alice Kuhnke (Greens/EFA, Sweden), Christine Anderson (ID, Germany), Jadwiga Wisniewska (ECR, Poland), Sandra Pereira (GUE/NGL, Portugal).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.
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