In a landmark gathering on February 27, 2024, ministers from across Europe met in Brussels to celebrate past successes and pave the way for a more inclusive future. Under the guidance of Belgian State Secretary Marie-Colline Leroy, discussions at the informal ministerial meeting centered on boosting gender equality across the continent.

The central questions of the informal meeting on February 27 were:

  1. How to place gender equality at the center of the current transformation of European society in the context of economic, ecological, and digital transitions
  2. What can be done to strengthen institutional mechanisms for gender equality policy, including within the framework of the Council?
  3. Deepening and strengthening institutional mechanisms for gender equality and integrating gender dimension policy within the EU.
  4. Member states expressed their support for increased visibility of gender equality policy within the Council. Based on this outcome, the presidency will initiate formal discussions on adding equality to the name of the “Employment and Social Affairs” Council formation at the first Council meeting exclusively dedicated to equality on May 7.

Significant support was also given to strengthening high-level political leadership, continuing the gender equality college with a European Commissioner portfolio on equality (of gender), and a new ambitious gender equality strategy for post-2025 and further integration of the gender dimension into EU policies.

Ministers emphasized that while many achievements have been made, there is still work to be done. They called for continued efforts to combat all forms of gender-based violence, including cyber violence, to address persistent gender gaps in employment, care, pay, and retirement within the European Pillar of Social Rights, and to deepen the integration of the gender dimension into relevant policy areas such as digital, ecological, or health policies.

Over the next five years, the European Union will undertake extensive work to support these two transitions:

  1. Women and men in all their diversity are differently affected by climate change, energy prices, and carbon emission reduction measures. Much remains to be done to place the gender dimension at the heart of the ecological transition.
  2. Digital technologies are rapidly transforming our society and citizens’ lives. Ministers discussed the risk of perpetuating or even exacerbating existing patterns of gender inequality and other intersecting inequalities, for example, through historically biased input data and stereotypes embedded in artificial intelligence or due to unequal representation in STEM sectors.

The President of the European Women’s Lobby contributed to the discussion by mentioning the contribution of women’s organizations and civil society, their essential role, and requested more recognition and resources. “The current legislative period has shown us what can be achieved when gender equality is on the EU political agenda and when the expertise and demands of women’s rights advocacy organizations are taken into account. To advance women’s rights, it is essential to have stronger institutional mechanisms, a seat at the negotiating table, and adequate resources for women’s organizations.”

 

 

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