EWL News

EWL calls for next EU budget to prioritise gender equality and social cohesion

[Brussels, 21 November 2012] On the eve of the EU extraordinary summit at which EU Member State governments will debate the future budget of the EU for the period 2014-2020, the EWL joins forces with its the Civil Society Contact Group (CSCG) partners in a joint letter calling for strong leadership and an ambitious budget that will meet the needs of women and men throughout the EU over the coming years.

Amidst proposals to drastically reduce the future budget by between 50 billion (proposal by the Cyprus Presidency) and 75 billion Euros (proposal by the European Council president), the clock is ticking for the EU to restore confidence in translating its values into real quality investments: equality between women and men, equality for all, human rights, democracy, active citizenship, the rule of law, social cohesion, including combating poverty and social exclusion, life-long learning, civil dialogue, cultural diversity, sustainable development and solidarity.

The economic crisis, national interests and austerity measures, all which create a fertile ground for populism, cannot and should not be used as an excuse to reduce EU public spending over the coming years. This narrow short term focus sends the wrong message to all: Europe is reluctant to take a leadership role, to meet its responsibilities and to strengthen solidarity at the time when it is most needed.

The proposal to cut almost 30 billion€ for Cohesion Policy the biggest cut in the budget – where the Structural Funds are embedded – means that the EU will cut its own means to meet its own objectives, particularly with regards to the two headline targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy: 75% employment rate for women and men by 2020 and to lift 20 million people out of poverty. The European Social Fund has played an undeniable role in these areas as well as pursuing equality between women and men, through a multitude of projects that aim to assert gender equality although the amount of funds allocated to gender equality has decreased over the years.

By the end of the 2007-2013 financial period 2,670 billion of the total Cohesion Policy budget of 347 billion euro will have been invested in promoting women’s labour market participation and reconciliation, representing less than 0.8% of the Cohesion Policy budget. In addition, in the current period the European Regional Development Fund invests only EUR 550 million (0.16% of whole cohesion policy budget) in improving childcare infrastructure. A drastic decrease in the future Cohesion Policy budget will undoubtedly impact on women and contribute to rolling backs years of progress on gender equality.

Budgets mirror political priorities and these are clearly being reassessed in the current discussions which lack a meaningful debate between the EU and civil society about the shape and purpose of the budget rather than budget lines, size and length of the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Decisions need to be taken in a transparent way, not behind closed doors. It is worrying that years of negotiations will culminate in a final decision being taken under the duress of a single summit.

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