Dear President Juncker, As organisations working on gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, both within Europe and globally, we are writing to call upon you to show leadership by transforming your personal commitment to gender equality from rhetoric and into practice.
Strong political accountability policies for the EU, both internally and globally are crucial for the European Union (EU) to maintain any credibility regarding its commitment to lead by example on gender equality. Therefore, we ask you to make gender equality a top priority by launching the renewed EU Action Plan on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in development (GAP) as an official Communication.
Ahead of your European People’s Party (EPP) nomination as candidate to the European Commission (EC) Presidency, we welcomed your assurance that the EU must promote, defend and protect women’s and children’s rights, fight violence against women and girls, and tackle high maternal mortality, as laid out in the EPP manifesto. We applauded your support for the UN Women “HeForShe” campaign in March 2015, mobilising all male Commissioners within the College to follow suit. We commend your Commission’s commitment to gender equality as a fundamental value of the EU. Furthermore, we praise the instrumental role of the EU and its Member States in ensuring that women’s and girls’ rights remain at the core of the new sustainable development framework.
The EU institutions’ work on gender equality, in particular the implementation of the Plan has been far from satisfactory. In May 2015, the European Council called for revitalised leadership from the EC and the European External Action Service (EEAS) on gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment; including a robust successor to the current GAP.
Making the GAP an official Communication would allow for necessary inter-institutional dialogues and send a strong message to all relevant stakeholders, particularly to EU delegations. It would enable EU institutions and Member States to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both internally and externally. Conversely, by downgrading the GAP to a Staff Working Document it would send a clear political signal that the Commission is not prepared to respect its own commitments or the call from Member States on gender equality. Unless otherwise – and we will be happy to be persuaded why non-communication would be better – we remain a strong stance on the case as it is too important an issue to be sacrificed on the altar of efficiency and “Better Regulation”.
The EC has twice promised to deliver an EU strategy on equality between women and men to the European Parliament, yet there is still no sign of this strategy. We ask you to support Commissioner Jourova to deliver such a strategy to realise women’s and girls’ rights, and gender equality.
It is time for the EU to adopt these two policies as strong Communications to ensure coherence between its internal and external policies and strengthen its accountability. We are counting on you, to make 2015 a turning point in the history of women’s and girls’ rights.
We thank you in advance for your attention to this letter, and hope to discuss these fundamental issues with you, critical to the lives of women and girls in Europe and around the world.