EU Gender Equality Strategy
In 2019, the European Commission President Von der Leyen made improving gender equality one of the Commission priorities, with new proposals including a EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, on which CoR adopted its Opinion.
The EU Gender Equality Strategy aims to achieve a gender equal Europe, free from structural inequality between men and women, gender-based violence and sex discrimination. To this end, it includes targeted measures to improve gender equality, combined with a gender mainstreaming approach to strengthen the integration of a gender perspective into all EU policies and initiatives.
The European Commission recently published its latest report on gender equality in the EU, which signals that "for the 2024 elections it committed to put a specific focus on women, among other groups and to promote specific actions to achieve gender balance in decision-making and in politics".
Enhancing gender balance in the CoR
As the EU's assembly of local and regional representatives from all 27 Member States, the European Committee of the Regions is fully committed in its work to promote gender equality and women's political participation.
The CoR has full gender parity in the leadership of its six Commissions, with three female Commission Chairs and three male Chairs, and it is committed to implementing its Strategy for improving gender balance in Members' Participation in the CoR, adopted in 2019 and undergoing a review in 2023.
In order to improve the gender balance within its membership, the European Committee of the Regions has repeatedly called on the Member States and the European Council to nominate and appoint gender-balanced national delegations to the CoR.
Many European political groupings, also represented at the CoR, have specific sections which bring female elected members from the same political family together at European level, and several CoR political groups have contact with such organisations (EPP Women; PES Women; European Women's Academy; ACRE Women).
Moreover, in its Resolution on the State of regions and cities, adopted in October 2022, the CoR stated that it "will launch reflections on how to increase women's participation in its work, its leading positions and its composition".
The CoR General Secretariat also has a dedicated Equal Opportunities Strategy.
Gender equality is a core value and objective of the European Union. It is firmly stated in the Treaty of Amsterdam and in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as well as in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. It needs to be translated into a concrete political priority and action across the EU Member States and regions and cities, as well as within the EU institutions.
Achieving gender equality is also one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all EU Member States, as well as a key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
The European Union has committed to improving gender balance in political representation and participation as a matter of justice, equality and democracy. Concrete recommendations have been made for achieving this goal, by actions that could be taken by the EU institutions, national governments, political parties, civil society and the media.
However, at present, women remain significantly underrepresented in local decision-making, with an average proportion of elected women in local and municipal councils of around 34%, and in regional assemblies of 32%, according to the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE).
As the EU's assembly of local and regional representatives from all 27 Member States, the European Committee of the Regions is fully committed to promoting gender equality and initiatives enhancing women's political participation, and acknowledges that the local and regional authorities are pivotal in fostering gender equality and equal political representation, including through their political assemblies and control over local public services and expenditure.
With the For more women in politics initiative, the CoR joins the call for better gender balance in politics at all levels of government, including at local and regional level, and for the exchange of best practice on means to achieve it. To this end, it also promotes joint work on gender equality with the other EU institutions, as well as the expertise of European Institute for Gender Equality – such as its online toolkit on gender-sensitive parliaments including regional parliaments - and of the work of the European associations such as the European Charter for Equality.
As the EU's assembly of local and regional representatives from all 27 Member States, the European Committee of the Regions is fully committed in its work to promote gender equality and initiatives on enhancing women's political participation.
The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, has made gender equality and empowering women in our societies and within political bodies one of the priorities for his mandate. He has also advocated fostering strategic collaboration with the European Institutions - the European Parliament, European Commission and the Council - to mainstream gender equality in all relevant EU policies. President Cordeiro (PT/PES) highlights: "Gender equality is a prerequisite for achieving a fairer and stronger Europe. Local and regional representatives everywhere are acting to improve gender equality, but we need to move faster to ensure better representation, better participation and a better gender balance at all levels, while making gender mainstreaming an indispensable condition for all policies."
Apostolos Tzitzikostas (GR/EPP), First Vice- President of the European Committee of the Regions, says: "Supporting and ensuring gender equality is key to build a social and just Europe. We locally and regionally elected representatives must lead by example in this respect."
Tanya Hristova (BG/EPP), Chair of the CoR's Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture, which leads the CoR opinion work on equality, diversity and inclusion, says: "It is important for women to be represented where decisions are made - thus they can defend women's rights, raise women's issues and needs. The visible presence of women in politics and on elected positions is a clear signal to other women in society that this field is open to them also. The participation of more women in politics is a matter of justice, of respect for human rights when we talk about equality and a matter of better functioning of democracy. There can be no full-fledged democracy if a large part of society is simply not represented. Women in politics have the potential to be role models, to influence the educational and career choices that young girls make." .
Concepcion Andreu Rodriguez (ES/PES), CoR rapporteur on "A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025", highlights that: “For a long time women have been a token presence in legislative assemblies. Politics in Europe is still in the hands of men and we need to change it. Let us change the focus, legislate and work for equality. No one can stay out of democratic processes, let alone women."