CoFoE: Women and the Future of Europe - Recommendations and Highlights

The panel discussion and debate that was held by Gender Five Plus on the 1st of February 2022, can be summarised as follows:


HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DISCUSSION


The lengthy CoFoE process is expected to come to an end by May/June, during the French Presidency, which in general has shown the intention of promoting gender equality issues. However, the CoFoE process so far has not really integrated the gender angle in the discussion on the Future of Europe.

The three issues raised in this this webinar- putting care into the centre of the economy, eradicating gender-based violence and ensuring parity democracy- have been discussed during the CoFoE process but are not high on the agenda and it remains to be seen if in the end there will be any concrete proposals on gender equality and on these issues.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of care and its central role in the economy, as well as the importance of the welfare state and the need for more gender equality. The crisis has been identified as a triple one - health, economic and environmental- but feminists have also added a fourth element- the crisis in reproduction resulting from the over-burdening of women and the lack of supportive facilities.

As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, the EU has given itself significant funds for investment, which provides an opportunity to invest in the care economy but regrettably there has so far been no gender-mainstreaming in the Recovery Fund. Demands for gender equality must be linked to those for social and economic convergence upwards, and for solidarity between Member States. A caring society based on gender equality is critical for the future of Europe.

Gender-based violence has been called the “Shadow Pandemic” by the UN Secretary General. It is very disappointing that 30 years after the adoption of the Bejing Platform for Action, women's fundamental rights are still violated through gender-based violence in the EU, despite the values embedded in the EU Treaties. Member states have failed to prevent violence, have failed to protect women, and have failed to punish the perpetrators.

Apart from the great human cost, a recently EIGE report estimated the cost to the economy of gender-based violence at 300 billion euro a year, and this has been considered an under-estimate. The cost of inaction goes far beyond the economic cost when almost every woman in the EU has experiences some form of gender-based violence, and the statistics are very disturbing. Action must also be taken to tackle a new form violence affecting an estimated 9 million girls in the EU - cyber violence. It is unacceptable to leave this crime unpunished in the EU digital age. A new proposal for a directive to tackle all forms of gender-based violence is expected from the Commission on 8 March, and it is to be welcomed but is also to be critically examined. Eliminating gender-based violence is a challenge for the future of Europe.

Despite the achievements made in many small steps forward, we are a long way from achieving gender equality and parity democracy, and further electoral reform is needed. However, a greater participation of women by itself does not guarantee progress, as illustrated by the fact that 40% of MEPs are women but many are right-wing politicians against gender equality. At the same time, the significant presence currently of women as heads of several EU institutions and Member State governments and in key ministerial positions provides an opportunity for feminists to lobby them, if the women's movement puts aside political differences and unites in coalition towards specific common goals. An important issue in the context of the CoFoE is the obligatory introduction of gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming in all policy areas. If the EU institutions are to function better to promote gender equality, changes are needed such as a permanent Commissioner for Equality with her/his own DG, a stronger Womens Committee in the European Parliament, and a Gender and Diversity Council for the EU.


RECOMMENDATIONS:


- Given that the CoFoE process is involving citizens, demands for gender equality should be still put forward on the digital platform but should also be sent to all four Institutions who will need to agree to them, namely to national Parliaments, the European Parliament , the EU Council, the EU Commission. Members of the CoFoE need to be lobbied and feminists must make their demands known.

- A European Care Strategy is needed for the future of Europe, and the proposals put forward by the European Women's Lobby for a European Care Deal should be supported. A holistic approach is needed, based on a Universal Right to Care which should be recognised. Pressure must be put on the EU Institutions and the MS to gender-mainstream infrastructure investments to be made under the EU Recovery Fund.

- The issue of gender-based violence must be put high on the EU agendas for the Future of Europe, as it is a major violation of human rights. Pressure must continue for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention. An expected new Commission proposal for Directive to tackle gender-based violence, which should also cover cyber-violence, is a welcome move and must be critically examined and supported .

- Pressure must continue for electoral reform if we are to achieve gender parity in elected positions in the democratic process. But parity is linked to the broader achievement of gender equality. Gender Budgeting and Gender Mainstreaming must be made obligatory in all policy areas. A Permanent Commissioner for Equality, a DG for Equality and an EU Council for Equality and Diversity are important demands to facilitate progress towards gender equality.


You can watch the full webinar on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HkB4TzN64Y



Panelists:


- Gabi Bischoff, Member of the European Parliament, VP of the S&D group of the EP

- Maria Karamesini, Prof. of Labour Economics and Economics, Panteion University, Athens

- Mary Collins, European Women's Lobby Senior Policy and Advocacy Coordinator

- Joyce Mushaben, Prof. Emerita Univ. of Missouri-St. Louis, Adjunct Prof. Georgetown

University, USA

- The extended board and honorary committee of G5+

- 51 participants

- Date: 1st of February 2022


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