European Commission

The coordination of gender mainstreaming across the European Commission’s Directorates-General is currently under the central responsibility of the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, led by Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli.

Within DG JUST is a dedicated Gender Equality Unit (Unit D.2) to coordinate the Commission’s work, as well as an Inter-Service Group on Gender Equality (ISG), with members from all Commission DGs and services. The ISG coordinates the implementation of actions for equality between women and men in the policies and annual work programmes for their respective policy areas.

The Gender Equality Unit deals with:

  1. legal aspects (monitoring the gender equality acquis and the new legislation) and
  2. policy issues, such as exchange of good practices between the Member States, awareness-raising and funding.

It is also consulted, both formally and informally, when new legislation is proposed. In the context of the inter-service consultation, the Gender Unit can make suggestions to reflect gender equality issues in proposals. The Unit has a contact person for each DG, supporting them to include a gender perspective in their activities and processes, and it also supports civil society organisations (CSOs), as experts during consultations and public dialogue.

It gives the EU CSOs a particularly important role in decision-making processes, through both formal and informal procedures. In the context of the preparation of policies, DG JUST and the Gender Equality Unit organise public consultations and seminars with social partners on specific topics to gather input from a broad range of stakeholders.

On 5 March 2020, the Commission presented its Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025. The strategy establishes policy objectives and actions to address gender equality challenges in Europe and ‘seeks to include the gender perspective across all policy areas, at all levels and in all stages of policy-making’.

European Parliament

The European Parliament is committed to gender mainstreaming in its work and organisation, a position confirmed in several resolutions since 2003. In 2019, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on Gender Mainstreaming. It called for the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) to be ‘accompanied by a joint declaration by Parliament, the Commission and the Council’.

The Parliament committed to ensuring that the annual budgetary procedures integrate gender-responsive elements that consider how the overall financial framework of the Union contributes to the objective of achieving equality and ensures gender mainstreaming. While recognising that most Parliamentary Committees (19 out of 23) have adopted action plans on gender mainstreaming in their work, the European Parliament called on those that had not, namely the Budgetary Control and Petitions Committee, the special temporary committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) itself to follow suit, noting ‘heterogeneity of these plans and the lack of implementation thereof’. It also called for the adoption of a joint gender action plan for the European Parliament, to include the ‘introduction of a gender perspective in all its policy activities and its working organisation’.

The European Parliament has established different bodies for implementing gender mainstreaming and promoting gender equality.

Council of the European Union

There is no structural mechanism on gender equality at Council level. Working groups are embedded in the Working Party of Social Questions. In 1994, the ministers responsible for gender equality convened for the first time to promote gender equality as an issue to consider at European Community level, while supporting the preparation of the Beijing Conference.

In 2018, during the Austrian presidency, an informal configuration of ministers responsible for gender equality met for the first time since 2011. In 2019, the Romanian and the Finnish Presidency organised a formal meeting on gender equality issues, attended by Ministers for Employment and Social Policy. Earlier, informal meetings were held to support Council Presidencies of the Union to set an agenda on gender equality, informed by the High-Level Group on Gender Mainstreaming.

Member State ministers responsible for gender equality have the opportunity to meet within the framework of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO). Among the main outcomes of EPSCO meetings are Council Conclusions on different subjects related to gender equality and women’s rights. They primarily focus on the areas of BPfA concern selected by the Presidency country. Since 2011, EIGE has provided expertise in the preparation of such biannual reports to follow-up the BPfA in the EU. Since 2015, a research note on a specific topic related to EU strategy is prepared for the presidency during the first semester of the year, with the BPfA report issued during the second semester of each year.

As a result of the economic, budgetary and institutional crises in the EU, Member State support for gender equality actions within the European Council has varied since 2013. The Council of the European Union Conclusions of 1 December 2015 highlighted the importance of acknowledging the crucial contribution of gender equality to the quality of R&I, and gender equality in decision-making. In 2016, the Council adopted conclusions on gender equality, stating its commitment to upgrading the status of the Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality to that of a Commission Communication, linking its contents closely to the Europe 2020 Strategy and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and publishing a high-level strategy for gender in the form of a Communication before the expiry of the Strategic Engagement for 2016-2019.

The Council adopted conclusions in 2017 and 2018 to strengthen gender equality and women’s empowerment in EU external action. In June 2018, it reached an agreement on the level of payment of paternity and parental leave, while, in 2019, it adopted conclusions on the gender pay gap.