Urgent need for an EU Strategy for Equality between women and men from 2016 to 2020!

Mr Jean-Claude Juncker,
President of the European Commission
Ms Foteini Kouvela,
General Secretary for Gender Equality

Athens, 2 December 2015

Dear President Jean-Claude Juncker,
Dear Secretary General Foteini Kouvela,

gender_0Re.: Urgent need for an EU Strategy for Equality between women and men from 2016 to 2020!

On behalf of our two organisations, the International Alliance of Women (IAW) and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), we are contacting you in relation to the follow-up to the European Commission’s Strategy on equality between women and men[1] which ends on 31 December 2015. We are very concerned about the announcement made during the meeting of the EC Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities on 26 November that the European Commission (EC) will downgrade the Strategy for equality between women and men to a Staff Working Document with the timeframe 2016-2019.

A Staff working document is far from a real commitment to make change for women and girls in Europe. It is a background document which does not bind all EU institutions, whereas a Strategy, under the form of a Communication, is discussed and adopted by the College of Commissioners. A Strategy provides a long-term vision, constitutes an overarching policy framework and sets outs monitoring and accountability mechanisms to reach the objectives inscribed in the Strategy.

Our democracies cannot afford to gear down or move back on women’s rights. There is no democracy without equality. And the EC is accountable for defending our core values.

Without a political EU Strategy on equality between women and men, it will be difficult, even impossible, for the European Union to meet its legal commitments to achieve equality between women and men, as stipulated in Articles 2 and 3§3 of the TEU and to steer a transformative gender mainstreaming policy as per Article 8 of the TFEU. Two months after the adoption of the new Sustainable Developments Goals, the EU must walk the talk and develop its own policy framework to realise women’s human rights, as described in goal number 5. Such Strategy would also transform EU commitments to the Beijing Platform for Action into action: the Beijing objectives on institutional mechanisms require strong and coordinated frameworks and institutions to realise equality between women and men.

In June 2015, 22 Ministers responsible for gender equality sent a joint letter[2] to Commissioner Jourova in which they strongly call for a new Strategy on equality between women and men after 2015 citing it as “an important reference framework for action that helps to set and maintain the national agenda for gender equality and increases its visibility, (which is) crucial for our common struggle for a more equal society.”

In June 2015 and by a vast majority, the European Parliament[3] adopted its position for an EU Strategy on equality between women and men in which it calls on the Commission to draw up and adopt a new separate strategy for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Europe.”[4]

We now need the European Commission to transform the calls of these two institutions into a concrete EU Strategy for equality between women and men.

Moreover, we need such Strategy to expand until 2020, in order to be consistent with the timeframes of other strategic documents, such as the Gender Action Plan, the European Pact for Gender Equality and the Strategy EU2020.

In December 2014, the European Commission, under the leadership of President Juncker, announced: “We committed to driving change and to leading an EU that is bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things.” The lack of Strategy on equality between women and men will send a very problematic political signal that women’s human rights are considered a ‘small thing’ in Europe…

On 7 December, you will take part in the meeting of the EPSCO Council. We ask you to call for a binding and comprehensive EU Strategy for equality between women and men from 2016 to 2020, and to refuse any proposal which would not meet this aim.


Yours sincerely,                                                                                                                          Yours sincerely,

Viviane Teitelbaum                                                                                                                   Joanna Manganara
President                                                                                                                                     President
European Women’s Lobby                                                                                                      International Alliance of Women


[1] Communication from the commission to the European, Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015, Brussels, 21.9.2010, COM(2010) 491 final

[2] Letter of 3 June 2015 signed by Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden. This was further supported by Finland.

[3] European Parliament EU Strategy for equality between women and men post 2015, Rapporteur: Maria Noichl, adopted 9 June 2015

[4] European Commission Press Release: “A New Start: European Commission work plan to deliver jobs, growth and investment”, 16 December 2014