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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > March 2005 > Speech by Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Equal Opportunities, at the 3rd Meeting of the Group of Commissioners for fundamental rights, the fight against discrimination and equal opportunities – 8 March 2005
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Speech by Marie-Josée Jacobs, Minister for Equal Opportunities, at the 3rd Meeting of the Group of Commissioners for fundamental rights, the fight against discrimination and equal opportunities – 8 March 2005

Date of Speech : 08-03-2005

Place : Strasbourg

Speaker : Marie-Josée Jacobs

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

Event : European Parliament plenary session

The President of the European Commission,



Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank Mr Barroso for his warm invitation to celebrate this International Women’s Day. (I would also like to thank the Members of the European Parliament.)

I would like first and foremost to tell you about the status of the debates at the United Nations on the Implementation of the Beijing Action Programme.

In New York, ten years after Beijing, the pure and simple reaffirmation of the declaration, of the action programme and the documents of the 23rd extraordinary session of the General Assembly has been difficult. It was greatly feared that the commitments would be weakened.

The Ministers of the 25 Member States of the European Union, the accession and candidate countries, as well as the 3 countries of the European Economic Area, in collaboration with Ms Anna Zaborska, President of the Parliament Committee for women’s rights and equal opportunities, and Mr Vladimir Spidla, the European Commissioner for Labour and Social Affairs, unanimously agreed to send a strong message in favour of complete reaffirmation, unequivocal and universal, of the programme. This unity was maintained at the UN in the face of amendments presented by the United States intended to complete and interpret the text of reaffirmation prepared by the Office. The United States wanted to state that the texts do not create any new international human rights.

The amendment was completely rejected by the Member States of the European Union and by the majority of the regional delegations assembled at the UN. This addition proposed by the United States was not acceptable to the European Union, considering the fact that it intended to give a specific interpretation to the Beijing Programme.

The European Union unceasingly emphasised that, for its part, there was no doubt that the declaration and the Beijing programme would remains the political refernce framework for all of its actions towards the objective of equality between men and women, and that, in parallel, CEDAW is the binding legal framework in the area of fundamental rights for women.

The United States finally withdrew its amendment on Friday evening.

I would like to thank the President and the Members of the European Parliament, as well as the Commission, for their efforts in supporting the Luxembourg Presidency in this difficult task.

I should say that the global solidarity of women was immense to reaffirm the Beijing Action Programme.

The European Union clarified the strategy in the area of equality of women and men by stating that the specific actions and integration of the aspect of gender should be considered as perspectives in all policy areas. The institutional mechanisms at the European and national levels are the principal vectors. It is important that they be regularly evaluated to render visible the progress on equal opportunity policies. In this context, the European Union will continue to refine and develop indicators broken down by sex. To evaluate progress, effective tools are necessary to follow-up on the evolution of the strategic objectives with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of future activities. The annual “Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on equality between women and men" is one of the precious tools.

At the level of equality between women and men in matters of employment, the economy and poverty, the EU is committed to fighting social exclusion and to overcoming obstacles to the participation of women in the labour market.

The salary differential between women and men remains high. The application of legislation on the equality of treatment and pay should be submitted to regular and efficient control that should be included in the social cohesion pillar.

Maintaining social cohesion requires an analysis on the aspect of gender in order to reduce not just the disparities between women and men, but also between indigenous and immigration populations, even across borders.

Faced with the challenge of demographic imbalance, the participation of women in high-quality jobs should be encouraged. This participation is linked to the problem of childcare and dependent persons, and requires an equitable distribution of responsibilities between men and women. At the same time, the quality of life and working conditions should not discourage young women and men from becoming parents.

The Report from the Commission on equality between women and men supports many of these assessments. The third framework of the declaration covers human rights, peace, violence, trafficking in human beings and other critical areas.

The declaration considers equality between women and men to be a fundamental principal of democracy.We agreed to guarantee to all women and girls, including migrant women, the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental liberties, and to develop strategies and specific evaluation criteria for measuring progress made.

We would like to reaffirm our will to put into place preventive measures to fight against violence based on gender and trafficking in human beings, with a view to all forms of exploitation, especially sexual exploitation, and to ensure follow-up on their implementation.

More concretely, the Member States of the European Union agreed to strengthen the measures that permit all the factors that result in the trafficking of women and girls to be addressed. They especially seek to consolidate the legislation in force to better protect the rights of victims, to follow-up and punish those who commit crimes through both criminal and civil measures, and to adopt a set of measures to discourage demand.

Luxembourg is dedicated to considering, during its Presidency, equality between women and men in the mid-term review of the results of the Lisbon Strategy and to supporting the implementation of a strategy for the coming five years.

The integration of questions of gender into the Lisbon Process is an obligation and a commitment in accordance with articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty. In addition, the European Commission emphasised in its report presented to the Spring European Council in March 2004 that European competitiveness risks being hindered by the slow pace of progress made in favour of equality of the sexes.

The ambition of the European Union to develop a social model that guarantees a balance between economic growth, employment and social cohesion should be based on equality between women and men.

It is incontestable that inequalities persist in most of the strategic areas and that the slow pace of progress threatens to hinder the competitiveness of the European Union.

The reaffirmation of the commitment of the Member States to support the active participation of women in the labour markets should be confirmed by the implementation of targeted measures that have been evaluated for effectiveness in reducing the disparities between the sexes in the different areas.

The increase in the rate of employment of women, which seems to remain one of the objectives (numerical objective) of the strategy, is thus closely linked to

- their participation in knowledge and innovation, the adoption of ICT

- their participation in research and development

- their participation in lifelong educational and training programmes.

The measures supporting young people, the European Youth Pact, deserve to be analysed from the gender point of view, given that the choice of professional training is one of the factors in the origin of professional segregation from which women suffer.

The last EPSCO Council of 3 March backed improved coordination between economic policy and policy on equality between women and men.

I congratulate the Commission for presenting today the proposal that was eagerly awaited on establishing the Institute for Equality between Men and Women.

I am particularly proud that the communication proposal on the Institute for Equality between Men and Women was presented during our Presidency.

The Institute should contribute to a more rapid realisation of equality between men and women.

In conclusion, I would once again like to thank you for the fruitful collaboration, and wish us all every success in our steps together towards equal rights.

Thank you very much.

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This page was last modified on : 09-03-2005

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