Kicking off European Parliament’s Gender Equality week, EIGE’s Director, Carlien Scheele gave an address at the Joint exchange of views on Gender mainstreaming in the EU budget on 23 October 2023 organised by the Committee on Budgets, Budgetary Control and FEMM.

Dear Members of the Committee on Budgets, Budgetary Control and FEMM

Dear Members of the Parliament,

Thank you for inviting EIGE again to the (annual) exchange of views on gender mainstreaming in the EU budget. I will focus in my intervention on some of EIGE’s key findings and observations, particularly also related to gender budgeting.

From the outset, I welcome the ongoing concrete actions of the European Parliament and the Commission in mainstreaming gender equality in the EU budget. In particular I welcome the EP, Commission and Council recent commitments made on gender budgeting as a strategy to achieve gender equality through allocating public resources in a way that addresses the specific needs of women and men.

Despite the commitment, EIGE identified on a number of occasions the challenges on how EU and Member States mainstream gender in its core budget and specific programmes.

Firstly, earlier this year, EIGE published a report for the Swedish Presidency where we were asked to look into how gender was mainstreamed in the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF). EIGE assessed how gender has been mainstreamed in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans.

Other EIGE research had already shown the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing the need to integrate gender budgeting into the RRF, the RRPs’ budgets and throughout the EU budget and funds. EIGE found that These were not perceived as a priority in many Member States: there was a lack of a sufficient tracking methodology in the RRF. Most Member States have not used gender budgeting tools, which will prevent the systematic assessment and monitoring of budget allocated to gender equality in the RRPs. Very often, the budgets of RRPs were insufficiently disaggregated, making it very difficult to assess what budget allocations have been made to gender-relevant interventions. The adopted Council Conclusions give political significance to ensuring that gender budgeting will address that economic recovery measures post-Covid-19 are gender-fair and leave no one behind.

In a second piece of research, our so-called ‘Institutional Mechanism’ project, which we conduct on a regular basis, EIGE found that tools to support gender mainstreaming activities are not widely used. The use of gender budgeting is low overall. Only eight Member States have a legal obligation to undertake gender budgeting in ministerial budgets or the budget of other governmental institutions. Sixteen Member States have no legal obligation, and none indicated that a legal obligation applies even in random cases.  Gender budgeting was reported to be “practically an unknown concept” in 11 Member States and “still in its foundational stages” in a further five.

And tomorrow, when we launch our Gender Equality Index 2023 with a thematic focus on the Green deal and gender equality. I can already reveal that there are challenges here, for example as to ‘energy poverty’ and the higher incidence of energy poverty among women and the par­ticular vulnerability of certain groups of women (e.g., single mothers, older women and women in social housing), showing the need for a gender mainstreaming/ budgeting perspective.

Now, these three examples show the need for concrete tools and assistance. Within the framework of the EU Gender Equality Strategy, EIGE’s has developed a series of gender mainstreaming toolkits, including on gender budgeting. This is a collection of tools that help users keep in mind the different needs of women and men throughout EU Funds and related processes, from the development of indicators to the definition of project selection criteria, the involvement of partners, and the monitoring, reporting and evaluation of programmes. It supports managing authorities involved in budget and funds programming, intermediate bodies implementing EU Funds projects, gender equality bodies, and staff working at the EU level with EU Funds, helping them implement the horizontal principle of gender equality.

Last year at this meeting EIGE informed you that EIGE released a tool to track resource allocations for gender equality in the European Union Cohesion Policy Funds. We welcomed the efforts that the Commission, led by DG BUDG, is putting in the development of a methodology to track gender equality expenditure for Multiannual Financial Framework programmes.

We also keep on supporting DG REFORM’s flagship on Gender mainstreaming in public policy and budget processes. This flagship project aims to increase the awareness of policies for promoting Gender Equality across seven Member States. The project supports the beneficiary administrations to analyse policies and budgeting processes from a gender mainstreaming perspective. The project will also facilitate peer learning opportunities between the participating Member State authorities.

We welcome that EU institutions and many Member States approach EIGE for its expertise in the area.  However, while EIGE’s Founding regulation calls on the Agency to contribute to and strengthen the promotion gender mainstreaming in all EU and resulting national policies and to provide technical assistance to the European Union institutions, I have yet again to share with you that we can only accommodate very few requests.  Our current staffing allocation does not allow for more, and the Member States fail to benefit the most. There is some hope, however, given the current budget discussions and I truly hope our repeated call for more contract agents will be honoured. And I thank the FEMM and BUDG committees’ support to EIGE’s budget requests.

Gender budgeting is now more important than ever.

Thank you for your attention.