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The idea of setting up a European Institute for Gender Equality came into being in 1995 and a draft proposal for its establishment was presented by the Swedish Minister for Gender Equality Ms Margareta Winberg at a seminar held in Stockholm in June 1999. The need for a gender institute as a ‘knowledge centre’ was confirmed by the seminar participants which was concluded by the general agreement on the need for a body for coordination, distribution of information and exchange of knowledge.
As part of the Social Policy Agenda, adopted at Nice in December 2000, the European Council recognised the need to raise awareness, pool resources and exchange experience in order to promote gender equality, in particular through the establishment of a European Institute for Gender Equality.
In 2002, the European Commission had a feasibility study carried out under the Community Framework Strategy on Gender Equality (2001-2005). The study concluded that there is a clear role for the Institute to carry out some of the tasks which the existing institutions do not currently deal with, specifically in the areas of coordination and dissemination of research data, network building, raising the visibility of gender equality, highlighting the gender perspective and developing gender mainstreaming tools.
Despite the positive results of the feasibility study the creation of the Institute was not moving forward. Women’s Rights Committee of the European Parliament then brought the idea of a European Gender Equality Institute back on the political agenda with its Resolution in March 2004 calling to accelerate the efforts leading to the establishment of the Institute. In June 2004, the European Parliament published a report on the Role of a Future European Gender Institute.
The Commission's first annual report on equality between women and men to the Spring European Council in 2004 concluded that significant gender gaps exist in most policy fields that inequality is a multi-dimentional phenomenon that has to be tackled by a comprehensive mix of policy measures and that enhanced efforts are needed to meet the Lisbon strategy targets.
The Employment, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Affairs Council of 1-2 June 2004, based on the results of the Informal Meeting of Equality Ministers convened by the Irish Presidency on 7 May 2004, fully supported the principle of setting up a European Institute for Gender Equality, while stressing the importance of a structure that would bring added value and would not duplicate existing activities in this area.
In June 2004, the European Council, reflecting the goals regarding equality between men and women of the Lisbon agenda and taking into account the previous discussions, expressed its support for the establishment of a European Institute for Gender Equality and invited the Commission to bring forward a specific proposal. This support was founded on the principle that while Community legislation and policies on equal treatment had substantially reduced discrimination, particularly in the area of employment, progress was too slow and enhanced efforts were required.
In March 2005, Vladimír Špidla, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, proposed the establishment of a new European Institute for Gender Equality. It would be an independent centre of excellence at European level that collects, analyses and diffuses reliable and comparable data. In the words of Commissioner Špidla: 'The institute will be a strong sign of the EU’s commitment to the promotion of equality.'
The Institute came into being when the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation (EC) No 1922/2006 of 20 December 2006 on establishing a European Institute for Gender Equality. The Institute was established in May 2007, initially in Brussels and then moved to its office in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Despite the fact that the Founding Regulation for the agency was adopted on 21December 2006, the set-up of the agency was delayed. EIGE’s first Annual Work Programme 2010 was adopted at the end of April 2010, its financial and administrative independence was granted in June 2010 and the official launch of the Institute’s activities took place on 16 June 2010.