Concrete requirements for considering gender equality within the EU Funds

The European Commission’s proposal for 2021-2027 regulations defines a number of concrete requirements and duties for Member States and managing authorities when programming and implementing EU Funds programmes. These form the minimum requirements for considering gender equality in the EU Funds. However, these can also be used as anchor points to go even beyond basic requirements on fully implementing the dual approach to gender equality within the EU Funds, in line with treaty obligations.        

The requirements, laid down in the draft draft proposal for the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) (COM(2018) 375 final) comprise:

  • the requirement to consider gender equality as a horizontal principle (CPR, recital (5));
  • the definition of partners to be involved in programming processes and during the implementation of programmes, including “bodies responsible for promoting... gender equality” (CPR, Article 6);
  • the duty for managing authorities to “establish and apply criteria and procedures which are non-discriminatory, transparent, [and] ensure gender equality” (CPR, Article 67).

The requirement to consider gender equality as a horizontal principle is to be understood as the aim of complying with the EU’s dual approach to gender equality, including specific measures and gender mainstreaming more broadly.

Article 6, on partnerships and multi-level governance, requires the involvement of partners in all efforts to promote gender equality.

Article 67 lays down general requirements for gender-sensitive project selection criteria and procedures under the ambit of the ‘Selection of operations by the managing authority’.

In addition to the CPR, further requirements for considering gender equality are defined in fund-specific regulations. This is especially true of the ESF+, while the ERDF, Cohesion Fund and EAFRD largely restate requirements already defined in the proposed CPR.

European Social Fund Plus (ESF+)

The ESF+ regulation (COM(2018) 382 final) includes specific objectives, one of which focuses on promoting women’s labour market participation and ensuring better work-life balance, including access to childcare (ESF+ regulation, Article 4). It explicitly calls for actions to support equality between men and women, for instance, its call for equal opportunities to “ensure equality between men and women throughout their preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation' (ESF+ regulation, Article 6).

 Sharing experiences with the Community of Practice on Gender Mainstreaming – the STANDARD for ESF (2014-2020)

The European Commission set up a Community of Practice on Gender Mainstreaming (GenderCoP) within the ESF during the programming period 2007-2013, in the context of transnational cooperation. This community of experts represented a learning network to support managing authorities and intermediary bodies within the ESF to make better use of gender mainstreaming strategies when implementing the ESF’s priority axes. Members of the GenderCoP produced a EU STANDARD – a guideline on how to implement a gender perspective in all phases of the ESF’s management. The GenderCoP STANDARD was piloted in four Member States – in Flanders, Belgium, Czechia, Finland and Sweden. The European Commission encouraged all Member States to use the standard, by formally endorsing it.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion Fund

The ERDF's and Cohesion Fund’s specific regulation (COM(2018) 372 final) restates the requirement to consider gender equality as a horizontal principle, following the definition laid down in the CPR[1] (recital (5)).

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)

The EAFRD's specific regulation (COM(2018) 392 final) reiterates the need to involve 'bodies responsible for...gender equality' as partners 'where relevant' (Article 94). It also defines the requirement for managing  authorities to inform bodies that promote equality between men and women of possibilities for receiving funding (Article 110).