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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > January 2005 > Speech by Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Equal Opportunities to the Committee on Women's right and Gender Equality of the European Parliament
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Speech by Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Equal Opportunities to the Committee on Women's right and Gender Equality of the European Parliament

Date of Speech : 24-01-2005

Place : Brussels

Speaker : Madame Marie-Josée Jacobs

Policy area : Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs

Madam Chairwoman,

Honourable members,

I would like to thank you sincerely for having given me the opportunity to present the activities on gender equality on the agenda of the Luxembourg Presidency. I hope that our exchange of views will be most useful.

Interaction between the Parliament and the Council is intended to improve the institutional mechanisms within the European Union of 25 Member States. In particular, it is expected to strenghen institutional mecanisms concerning equal opportunities for women and men, which is the theme of our Presidency.

One subject that has demanded everyone’s attention is the human drama in the coastal regions of South-East Asia. The situation of many women and children requires our particular attention. Physical and sexual abuse against women and girls and boys has been reported from the most devastated regions in which rescue work is not always supervised. Pregnant and breast-feeding women and, together with children, are the most vulnerable. It is important for international organisations and institutions to take account of their special situation, and act against any form of violence based on sex.

Setting up physical and mental health care services and emergency bodies should be an absolute priority. It is a fact that women are major players in the reconstruction of social and economic structures. It is also important that the European Union should support action programmes enabling women to take control of their own destiny, with a view to guaranteeing their independence and participation in civic, economic and political life.

In this respect, I am relying on the coordination and cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations organisations. These organisations have great experience in managing crisis situations and have developed an approach that respects the differences between the genders. Women should have access to formal and informal information to be able to act in an informed manner in case of a natural disaster and during the reconstruction phase. The importance of targeted actions in favour of the women of this region is undeniable.

Since the 4th World Women’s Conference in Beijing, the institutional mechanisms have been recognized as an institutional basis playing a role as a catalyst in the promotion of gender equality and in integration into a gender-specific perspective.

The examination and evaluation of these mechanisms will be the subject of the Beijing + 10 conference organised by the Luxembourg Presidency in cooperation with your Committee, the European Commission and the European Women’s Lobby. We are particularly pleased that the Chairwoman is prepared to participate in the Presidential Conference and the Ministerial Meeting at the beginning of February in Luxembourg.  Based on the progress identified, good practices and obstacles encountered, the declaration will be drafted, setting out the challenges to be taken up and the measures to be adopted for the future at European Union level. For the Ministerial Meeting, the Presidency is planning two discussion forums on the future strategies of the European Union to improve and strengthen the implementation of the Beijing Platform through institutional mechanisms, through the strategy of gender mainstreaming and through supervisory and accountability mechanisms.

I would like to draw your attention to the report drawn up by the Presidency – which will be sent to you shortly – concerning the progress made at European Union level 10 years after Beijing. The report written by international experts discusses the institutional mechanisms: the European Union itself, the European Commission with its internal structures, the Parliament and other bodies set up. It gives an overview of the legislation developed over the last 10 years. It analyses the indicators drawn up by successive Presidencies since 1999 and describes the national mechanisms, particularly governmental institutions. The final chapter sets out the challenges to be taken up by the European Union in the 12 critical areas of the action platform. The report will supplement the declaration of the European Union. With this declaration, the European Union is counting on the support of EU candidate countries, the EFTA countries as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The European Union intends to reaffirm its commitment to the implementation of the Beijing platform and documents emanating from the 23rd extraordinary session of the UN General Assembly.

The European Union announced its strong commitment on this subject under the Dutch Presidency at the preparatory regional meeting concerning the follow-up of Beijing by the UN European Economic Council on 14 and 15 December 2004 in Geneva. 

You are certainly aware of the tendencies, or even the determination of some countries to weaken the text of the Beijing Platform by adopting new texts. The European Union must be vigilant at all times and it must work for an unconditional reaffirmation of the Beijing texts in the 12 critical areas. I am in favour of complete reaffirmation. Focusing on a specific area could possibly lead to other areas being forgotten. The declaration adopted at the meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women should influence on the Millennium Objectives, in order to reinforce the gender dimension.

The evaluation of the progress made with regard to the implementation of the Beijing platform and the documents emanating from the 23rd extraordinary session of the Assembly General within the European Union was carried out using gender indicatorsThese indicators could have an influence on the mid-term review of the Lisbon process.  These Lisbon strategic objectives are in line with the strategic objectives of the Beijing action programme and those of the Millennium Development Goals.

It is important to note the direct link between the revision of Beijing, the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy and the Millennium objectives.

The Lisbon objectives that aim to make the European Union economy the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy in the world by 2010 imply increased participation by women and the eradication of disparities that exist between women and men. This involves developing an economy capable of sustainable economic growth accompanied by a qualitative and quantitative improvement in employment, an economy generating greater social cohesion, an economy that respects the environment and natural resources. For the Luxembourg Presidency, the social aspect must remain a priority of economic development. Social inclusion and equality between women and men are the catalysts of sustainable development.

The Luxembourg Presidency intends to reaffirm the European Union’s Commitment in favour of equality of women and men. The integration of the gender dimension should not be limited to a few areas of strategy, but must be an element of all areas, both at the horizontal and transversal level. The Presidency will, of course, take account of the recommendations by the Kok report and those formulated by the Committee in its summary report and the reports by the various committees concerned. We hope to be able to count on the support of the European Parliament concerning our planned policy option in favour of strengthening the gender dimension in the Lisbon process.

Another matter on the agenda of the Luxembourg Presidency is the "Recast" directive.

On 21 April 2004, the Commission presented the proposal for a "Recast" directive aimed at consolidating four fundamental directives on equality between women and men and 3 amending directives into a single document.

The objective of the recast, which the Council supports, is to clarify and modernise the documents and make them more accessible to citizens.

The advantage will be dual:

  • combine a series of directives into a single text, highlighting their common and specific provisions respectively;
  • enable the consistent case law of the Court of Justice to be incorporated into a formal text, thus bringing them to the attention of citizens.

The consolidation in itself is uncontroversial within the Council, but it is a technical and complex procedure. The most difficult problem to resolve within the Council concerned the interpretation to be given to the case law on equal pay attributable to a single source (Lawrence and Allonby judgments).

On 7 December 2004, the Council reached an overall orientation while awaiting the proposal of the European Parliament.

Personally, I hope that this dossier will make rapid progress. I am relying on the excellent cooperation of the European Parliament so that, after the first reading, the matter can be placed on the agenda in June.

Concerning the Programme for employment and social solidarity (PROGRESS), it encompasses four specific Community action programmes which currently support the implementation of the agenda for the social policy, as well as a 5th dimension concerning working conditions.

In the European Commission proposal, the objectives defined for each section have been converted into operational objectives corresponding to the types of assistance to be provided, i.e. analysis and peer learning activities, awareness-increasing and dissemination activities and assistance to the main players. An in-depth examination carried out under the Luxembourg Presidency is under way in the working group on social issues.

Many Member States have declared themselves in favour of reinforcement of the gender dimension as a horizontal approach in all sections. The major problem will remain the field of activity provided for in the 5th section concerning equality of women and men.

According to my contacts with Commissioner Spidla, the Commission will present a proposal on the operation and the budget of the future Gender Institute at the end of February or early March. According to the European Commission’s feasibility study, this Institute will have to accomplish certain tasks that the existing institutions are not dealing with currently, in particular:

  • centralisation and dissemination of information;
  • a higher profile for questions connected with equality between women and men;
  • provision of tools for integration of gender equality issues into policies;
  • coordination questions.

The Parliament has also requested the creation of such a Gender Institute in the resolution of 10 March 2004 on European Union policies.

In my opinion, the fields of action of the Institute and the 5th section are complementary, with the activities of the Institute being of a European nature in general, whereas the activities of the programme are more national, or even transnational, linking the activities of several Member States. A large number of synergies are possible. The Commission, in cooperation with the Member States, ensures the coherence of the overall strategy with the other policies and actions of the Union and the Community. The activities of the Gender Institute and those of the Progress programme will not overlap. This should be considered a plus point (Article 15 of the Programme).

The Luxembourg Presidency will draw up for the Employment, Social Policy and Consumer Council in June 2005 a report reviewing the follow-up of Beijing both at European and UN level. This report will deal with the future strategies required to implement gender equality policies.

Madam Chairwoman,

I would like to thank you for your participation in the Presidential and Ministerial Conferences in February in Luxembourg, and for accepting to make a speech.

Honourable members,

You are all invited to the Conference. Thank you for having given me the opportunity to give a brief presentation of the programme of the Luxembourg Presidency. I am relying on you to move these issues forward.

Four fundamental directives on equality between women and men and 3 amending directives into a single document :

1) Council Directive 75/117/EEC of 10 February 1975 relating to the application of the principle of equal pay for men and women.

2) Council Directive 76/207/EEC of 9 February 1976 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions, as amended by Directive 2002/73/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 September2002.

3) Council Directive 86/378/EEC of 24 july 1986 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in occupational social security schemes as amended by Directive 96/97/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 december 1996.

4) Council Directive 97/80/CE in relation to the burden of proof in case of sexual discrimination.

This page was last modified on : 28-01-2005

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