CoFoE: Why a Gender Perspective is needed - Recommendations and Highlights

As a part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Gender Five Plus organized the first of a series of planned webinars, bringing together a panel of women, all experts in their areas, to discuss about the need to integrate a gender perspective into the conference process. See below the highlights of the webinar and the recommendations that were made during such a fruitful discussion that held on October 4th 2021.



Recommendations


· Gender equality must become a central issue of the CoFoE.

Initiatives must be taken immediately by the CoFoE organizers to actively engage in the participation of women in the Conference process. Such initiatives should focus on :

- gender equality as a cross-cutting issue and a theme of the Conference. According to the Treaties, Gender equality is both a gender mainstreaming issue for all policies AND gender equality specific actions.

- provide support for women’s rights organisations to take a leadership role in engaging citizens, especially women, in the CoFoE and to substantially increase women’s representation on all the bodies involved in the process, including the executive bodies of the CoFoE.


· The CoFoE process provides an opportunity to strengthen gender equality in the EU.


We call for:


- The establishment of an EU Council formation specifically dedicated to Gender Equality

- Qualified majority decisions in the Council for proposals from the Commission according to commitments in the Treaties and the EU charter of fundamental rights

- Implementation of gender budgeting in the EU as well as Member states budgets

- Care Deal for Europe; the urgency of this has been made evident by the COVID-19 crisis


· Europe is us - Make Europe everybody’s issue

A general recommendation was made to all the participants of the webinar to “make their voice heard” on the CoFoE platform to ensure that Europe belongs to all and not restricted to a “Brussels Bubble”.



Highlights of the debate


While welcoming the innovative approach of the conference to involve citizens in debates from the beginning, the panel underlined that the deficit of women in the executive bodies of the conference is a democratic deficit: “You need representation to make your point of view heard”. The decision to have gender parity for the experts assisting the panels was welcomed, but more transparency on the selection and composition of the panels is needed.


From the available statistics, it appears that women have not been encouraged to participate in the CoFoE process. In September 2021, an analysis of 20000 contributions and 1600 events showed that 63% were coming from men and only 15% from women. Action should be taken to stimulate the participation of women in an intersectional perspective - if not, the results will not be democratically representative.


It is not acceptable and disappointing that gender equality is not one of the 9 themes of the CoFoE. Gender equality cannot be an addition, but must be a central cross cutting issue. Currently, it is mainly discussed under the rule of law/rights theme, including the question of sexual and reproductive health, which undeniably is a crucial issue for women. The theme of gender-responsive budgets must be included.


We should make every effort to encourage feminists to make contributions on the CoFoE platform. Initiatives such as this webinar are a small step but not sufficient. Women’s expectations for the future of Europe are for significant change and this should be heard. There has been back-tracking and a backlash on gender equality as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, despite the fact that the crisis highlighted the problems of inequality and the indispensable role of women in holding society together. Concrete actions in the near future should focus on:

- an EU directive on all forms of violence against women, to capture the continuum of male violence that encompasses on and offline violence;

- a European Care Deal taking into account paid and unpaid care and move towards an equal-earner equal-care model;

- more binding measures for parity representation in all decision making positions - the CoFoE process itself is the proof that binding measures are more than necessary.


The moment for more radical action on gender equality is now! At the EU level we have the first women President and the most gender sensitive Commission in history. This is mirrored, not only in numbers but also in processes and content, for example, a specific task force to implement gender mainstreaming has been set up; the EU next generation national plans are screened for their gender content. Citizens participation and women’s rights in particular are an issue of concern in the new Commission who has multiplied participatory initiatives: European citizens’ initiative is being reviewed, the Bauhaus project, new project of the Joint Research Centre to increase citizen’s participation and bring topics to the attention of the broader society, etc.


As compared to previous exercises like the Constitutional Convention of 2003[1] ,the CoFoE should be seen as a major step forward. In the last 20 years, there has been some progress in “descriptive” representation, for example, in relation to the number of women in panels, but not much in “substantive” representation, such as the discussion of a gender perspective on climate change. With regards to the “symbolic” representation, the EU should be stronger in defending gender equality as part of its identity which is part of its founding principles and mission.


The point was also strongly made that the CoFoE is very Brussels-bubble oriented process and no information has been provided on how the debate is open at national and regional level with what support, for what kind of groups. Women’s rights and feminists organisations do not seem to be specifically consulted or receive support for campaigning for the conference. The need for the EU to support women’s organisations, both in general and as part of the CoFoE process, was highlighted.



Participants


- Gabi BISCHOFF, Member of the European Parliament

- Reka SAFRANY, President of the European Women’s Lobby

- Monika LADMANOVA, Member of the Cabinet of Commissioner Vera Jourova

- Gabi ABELS, Jean Monnet Professor for comparative politics and European integration at the Institute of Political Science of University of Tübingen

- The extended board and honorary committee of G5+

- 42 participants

- Date: 4th October 2021




[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Future_of_Europe,

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