The EU institutions have recognized that gender equality is a crucial factor in achieving growth, employment, and social inclusion. Gender issues have been tackled in a number of directives and the European Commission Strategic Engagement plan for Gender Equality 2016-2019 highlights the importance of allocating resources for this matter. Unfortunately the commitment of the EU to gender equality is still not adequately dealt with in its budget (and not only).
What is happening in FEMM Committee at the European Parliament
On the 25th of January, a vote on a report highlighting the importance of gender budgeting was held in the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality of the European Parliament (FEMM). The own-initiative report procedure “EU funds for gender equality”, assesses how gender mainstreaming is applied in the EU fund allocations. Rapporteur Clare Moody from the Parliamentary Group of the Socialists and Democrats points out that although the Commission, in 2015, declared its commitment to gender mainstreaming (policymaking with a gender perspective), there is no trace of this political will in the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) midterm communication of September 2016. Moody underlines that the funds allocated for gender equality have significantly been cut down.
An example is Daphne Funding Programme, this plan aimed at child, young adult and women protection against all forms of violence and at achieving improved health condition, well-being and social cohesion. In 2013 EUR 18 million were allocated for Daphne Funding Programme, EUR 19.5 million in 2012 and more than EUR 20 million in 2011. Rights Equality and Citizenship Programme (REC) that has replaced Daphne, had a little more that EUR 14 million for 2016. There is a EUR 6 million difference between 2011 and 2016. In the 2014-2019 MFF only a few programmes have allocated resources for gender equality such as Horizon 2020, ESF (European Social Fund) and REC; others only provide vague references to gender equality principles. According to the Parliamentary Committee the lack of ad hoc gender indicators and of collection of gender-disaggregated data makes it impossible to evaluate the gender equality impact of EU policies.
MEPs demand that the European Commission solves this ineffective approach and also call for the creation of permanent gender equality body in all Member States, such as the Gender CoP network in Sweden, this would provide technical support for gender mainstreaming. Furthermore, the FEMM Committee also take into consideration the unprecedented arrival of refugees in Europe. They advocate for allocating particular funding to support targeted measures through the involvement of local and regional authorities as well as grassroots organisations. The primary purpose is to ensure that the security, safety, basic needs, and human rights of asylum seekers, refugees, migrant women and girls, including pregnant, elderly, and LGBTI people are protected. From this own initiative, it is clear that the EU could make a much better use of its budgetary resources to work towards gender equality. To this purpose the vote that will be held in Strasbourg’s plenary session in March is crucial.
Along the same line, MEP Eider Gardiazabal Rubial also from the Socialist’s and Democrats has prepared an Opinion of the Committee on Budgets for the FEMM Committee on this report. Gardiazabal Rubial agrees with Moody that the high level of the EU’s commitment to gender equality is not reflected in its budget. Hence, Gardiazabal Rubial gives several suggestions. First, there must be clear gender mainstreaming standards and targets, and accordingly, there must be a precise amount allocated to individual actions and objectives. Second, there is a need to implement gender-specific indicators and criteria in the process of project selection, monitoring, and evaluation. Third, after 2020, EU funding programmes should identify both explicit and implicit gender issues; identify the associated resource allocations, and assess how the EU funding programmes impact gender inequalities and patterns of gender relations. Finally, Rubial advocates for the adoption of the methodology of the Gender Equality Index 2015 – Measuring gender equality in the European Union 2005-2012, when planning and implementing programmes.
Current state of play in the EU
A study conducted by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has underlined that there is no clear gender strategy in the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020. It is often not possible to determine which, if any, resources are allocated to achieving gender objectives within programmes. Unfortunately, for most of the programmes, it is impossible to find information on the financial allocation and implementations from a gender perspective. Essential tools for gender mainstreaming, such as Gender Indicators, Gender Impact Assessment (GIA) and Gender Budgeting (GB) are very rarely adopted both in EU and in national institutions.
More comprehensively, Manuela Samek Lodovici, Flavia Pesce, and Daniela Loi published a study on “The use of funds for gender equality in selected Member States” (2016). The study, which was prepared for the FEMM Committee, assessed the application of gender mainstreaming in the EU fund allocations for the period 2014-2020 in the UK, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Germany, and Croatia. Based upon the analysis of the financial data and related documentations (e.g. Calls for proposals, programmes, and funded projects), similarly to the EPRS research, the authors’ main finding is that the 2014-2020 budget does not include an explicit gender strategy. The authors state that “the overall EU funding allocated to gender equality measures in the 2014-2020 period reaches only EUR 6.17 billion, equivalent to around 0.6% of the overall ceiling commitment appropriations”.
When it comes to already mentioned Horizon 2020, the research revealed that out of 10,128 projects funded at September 2016, only 71 of them addressed gender equality (0.007% in total). Moreover, the majority of these projects (more than 60%) was financed through Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions by supporting female doctoral candidates and experienced researchers.
Sadly the EU institution’s political commitment to gender equality and gender mainstreaming has not been sufficiently adopted in the 2014-2020 MFF budget allocation and spending decisions. Gender equality objectives have been marginalized and the gender dimension tends to disappear in those programmes where only general objectives are indicated, limited at best to the generic concept of gender equality with no specific actions or conditions laid down to provide concrete assistance in achieving the goal. There is no way that we can reach gender equality if there are scarce funds to achieve this aim.
European Parliament - Rapporteur Clare Moody, Draft Report on EU funds for gender equality (2016/2144(INI));
European Parliament - Rapporteur Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, Opinion of the Committee on Budgets for the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on EU funds for gender equality (2016/2144(INI));
Manuela Samek Lodovici, Flavia Pesce, Daniela Loi (2016, November), The Use of Funds for Gender Equality, Study for FEMM Committee;
European Parliamentary Research Service, (2016, March), Gender mainstreaming in the EU: State of play;
European Parliamentary Research Service; Gender-responsive budgeting.