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#EUAuditors to examine #GenderMainstreaming in #EUBudget

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Gender mainstreaming is the practice of systematically considering gender when preparing, designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating policies and activities. The European Court of Auditors is conducting an audit to assess whether the Commission has used gender mainstreaming in the EU budget to promote equality.

Gender equality is one of the fundamental values enshrined in the EU treaties. Failing to promote equality may have significant negative effects on jobs, productivity and GDP growth, according to a recent study by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). EIGE also found that although there had been progress on gender equality within the EU since 2013, progress was uneven across Member States.

Already for the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF), the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed to apply “gender-responsive elements” where appropriate in budgetary procedures. However, a recent internal spending review of current EU programmes found that gender equality had not been mainstreamed across the EU budget in the same way as climate change or biodiversity. Instead, specific programmes, mainly those tackling employment and social issues, had been used to address discrimination based on gender.

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“Taking into account gender when deciding and implementing the EU budget is crucial in promoting equality between women and men”, said Eva Lindström, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the audit. “We want to see whether the Commission has applied this principle in the EU budget. This is an important analysis to undertake with negotiations for the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework currently ongoing”.

The audit report, due to be published in the first quarter of 2021, will particularly assess whether:

—          There is an appropriate framework to promote gender equality;

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—          the MFF and the annual EU budgets incorporate a gender perspective, and;

—          the Commission is able to demonstrate the gender equality results of the main EU funding programmes.

The audit scope includes the common agricultural policy (CAP), the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) and the Erasmus programme.

Gender equality is one of the fundamental values of the EU treaties. The 1957 Treaty of Rome introduced the principle of equal pay. Commitment to equality is expressed both in the Treaty on European Union and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Both the Council and the European Parliament are committed to gender equality. The Commission plays a major role in incorporating gender concerns into programme implementation and in monitoring and evaluating results. In 2019, new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen placed gender equality high on her political agenda. The post of Equality Commissioner has been created and a new EU gender equality strategy is currently being developed, in parallel with negotiations on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-2027.

The European Court of Auditors today published a preview of its audit on gender mainstreaming. Audit Previews provide information on an ongoing audit task. They are based on preparatory work undertaken before the start of an audit and should not be regarded as audit observations, conclusions or recommendations.

Afghanistan

EU foreign ministers to meet by video to give a ‘first assessment’ on Afghan situation

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Refugee children from Afghanistan and Syria entering the plane that will bring them from Greece to Germany as part of a EU relocation program, April 2020

EU High Representative for External Affairs Josep Borrell has announced an extraordinary video conference of EU foreign ministers for tomorrow afternoon (17 August) for a “first assessment” of the latest developments in Afghanistan, writes Catherine Feore.

Since the joint statement by the High Representative and Commissioner Lenarčič of 5 August calling for an urgent, comprehensive and permanent ceasefire “to give peace a chance” and condemning the escalation in violence, in particular the armed attack on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) office, there has been little in the way of communication from EU leaders and the EU itself. 

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European Council President Charles Michel tweeted last night (15 August): “In close contact with EU High Representative and following developments in Afghanistan. Security of EU citizens, staff and their families is priority in short term. Equally clear that many lessons will need to be drawn.”

The European External Action Service published a joint statement today (16 August) led by the US and signed by the “international community” (Albania, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta , Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Montenegro, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Cyprus, Romania, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Togo, Tonga, Uganda, United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Yemen).

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The statement recognizes the deteriorating security situation and states that the signatories are working to secure the safe and orderly departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave the country: “Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility - and accountability - for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order [...] The Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”

Two EU states, Hungary and Bulgaria, have not signed this statement. 

How will the ‘international community’ work with the Taliban?

On 13 August, NATO issued a statement that it would maintain its diplomatic presence in Kabul and expressed concern about the high levels of violence caused by the Taliban’s offensive, including attacks on civilians, targeted killings, and reports of other serious human rights abuses. In the statement NATO said: “The Taliban need to understand that they will not be recognized by the international community if they take the country by force. We remain committed to supporting a political solution to the conflict.”

Likewise the EU has condemned violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Taliban-controlled areas, such as arbitrary and extrajudicial killings of civilians, public lashing of women and the destruction of infrastructure. The EU said that some of these acts could amount to war crimes and will have to be investigated with those Taliban fighters or commanders responsible being held accountable.

However, as the Taliban take control of Afghanistan it is hard to see how forces and civilians can safely leave the country without negotiating with the Taliban.

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European Commission

Commission welcomes Council's approval of recovery and resilience plans

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The European Commission welcomes the Council's approval of its assessments of the recovery and resilience plans of the first 12 member states: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Austria and Slovakia. These plans set out the measures that will be supported by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU, which will provide €800 billion (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU.

The Council's approval paves the way for the payment of up to 13% of the total allocated amount for each of these member states in pre-financing. The Commission aims to disburse the first pre-financing as quickly as possible, following the signing of the bilateral financing agreements and, where relevant, loan agreements. The Commission will then authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in each of the Council Implementing Decisions, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms covered in the plans.

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European Council

European Council reaches tipping point on the rule of law?

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The European Council (24 - 25 June) was dominated by two subjects: Russia and the Franco-German proposal for an EU-Russia summit - which was abandoned - and the rule of law.

While the debate on the rule of law in Europe has been simmering for some time, the recent anti-LGBTIQ proposals of the Hungarian government seemed to present a tipping point. Even provoking, at least one leader, the Netherlands Prime Minister Marc Rutte to question whether Orban’s Hungary belonged in the EU. 

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Asked about this, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: "There are ten million people in Hungary and there are ten million reasons why Hungary should remain part of the European Union."

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, the current holder of the rotating Presidency of the Council, referred to his own country’s struggle for democracy and the importance of EU membership as a guarantor of democracy.

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