Institutions Of The EU Commission And Parliament

European Commission in Brussels.
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Europäische Kommission in Brüssel


Directorate-General For Justice

Since 2010, the task area ‘Gender equality’ has been allocated to Directorate D of the newly created Directorate-General, which is further divided into four subunits:

  • G/1 deals with gender equality law;
  • G/2 deals with gender equality between women and men;
  • G/3 deals with the rights of people with disabilities; and
  • G/4 deals with anti-discriminatory practices and coordination of Roma issues.

The Commissioner responsible for gender equality and anti-discrimination is currently Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship. She has expressed the following as one of her central objectives: ‘to be a strong Gender Equality Commissioner further strengthening gender equality throughout the Union and in all fields of EU policy. Reducing the gender pay gap, increasing the number of women in decision-making, and combating violence against women will be my priorities in this area.’

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European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)

The decision to establish a new European Institute for Gender Equality in Vilnius, Lithuania, was taken in December 2006 by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, after the idea for an institute of this kind had originally been put forward in 1995 and then followed up by a draft proposal presented by the Swedish Minister for Gender Equality in 1999. The Institute officially began its work in June 2010.

The Institute is a European agency that, in its capacity as a centre of knowledge and network of experts, is tasked with supporting member states and European institutions (particularly the Commission) in their efforts to promote gender equality, fight gender discrimination and raise awareness of gender issues among EU citizens.

EIGE’s substantial involvement in implementing the Strategy for equality between women and men 2010–2015 includes the following tasks:

  • supporting the development and updating of indicators in critical fields of the Beijing Platform for Action;
  • organising a public documentation centre that provides available gender mainstreaming statistics, data, information, functioning models and approaches;
  • promoting the development of mainstreaming instruments and methods;
  • developing a gender equality index;
  • organising a virtual European network for gender equality.

The Institute comprises the following:

  • The Management Board (decision-making body) is made up of 18 representatives from the member states and one member from the Commission, and is appointed for a period of three years according to the rotation principle. The Management Board adopts both the annual and medium-term work programmes and the budget.
  • The Experts’ Forum (consultative body) is made up of gender equality experts, one from each of the member states, two from the European Parliament and three from the Commission. The Experts’ Forum supports the Director in ensuring the academic excellence and independence of the Institute.
  • The Director serves as the legal representative of the Institute and is responsible for its daily management and implementation of the work programme. The Director is appointed by the Management Board for a period of five years, and may be reappointed once. The Institute’s first Director is Virginija Langbakk from Sweden.
  • The staff is currently being expanded. Overall, the Institute will employ around thirty staff members.

The Institute’s budget for the period 2007–2013 amounts to 52.5 million euros.

Current projects:
‘Gender training in the European Union: Mapping, research and stakeholder’s engagement’ (2012/13): the objectives of the project are to collect information on activities, protagonists and resources related to gender training, to identify good practices, to further develop EU quality standards for gender training and to cultivate improved access to high-quality instruments for policy decision-makers. Ultimately, the aim is to create an online gender training database and to foster exchange between the various protagonists in this area by means of online discussions and a European conference in November 2012.

Related publication: ‘Good practices in gender mainstreaming: Towards effective gender training. Mainstreaming gender into the policies and the programmes of the institutions of European Union and EU Member States’.

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European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM)

The Committee comprises 64 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and is responsible for:

  • the definition, promotion and protection of women’s rights in the Union and related Community measures,
  • the promotion of women’s rights in third countries,
  • equal opportunities policy, including equality between men and women with regard to labour market opportunities and treatment at work,
  • the removal of all forms of discrimination based on sex,
  • implementation and further development of gender mainstreaming in all policy sectors,
  • follow-up and implementation of international agreements and conventions involving the rights of women, and
  • information policy on women.

The current focus of the Committee’s work is on gender-specific pay gaps, poverty of women, lack of involvement of women in decision-making processes, human trafficking and violence against women and children.

The Committee has recently addressed the following issues and themes in various reports, expert opinions and other documents:


The chair is currently held by Swedish MEP Mikael Gustafsson (Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left).

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Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

The Committee was set up by the Commission in 1981; however, in light of numerous amendments to the respective Decision since that time, the Commission re-codified the Decision in June 2008 in the interests of clarity and rationality.

The Committee assists the Commission in formulating and implementing measures promoting equal opportunities for women and men and submits opinions to the Commission. The Advisory Committee (68 members) is composed of representatives from ministries and equality bodies in the member states, EU social Partners and the European Women’s Lobby, as well as representatives from international and professional organisations and other associations, including the European Free Trade Association. As such, it provides a framework to encourage the exchange of experiences, policies and practices between the member states and the various participating stakeholders.

The Committee submits opinions at the request of the Commission or on its own initiative. The Committee’s three most recent opinions are the following:

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The High-Level Group on Gender Mainstreaming

The High-Level Group on Gender Mainstreaming is made up of leading government officials responsible for gender equality in the member states and representatives from the Commission and Secretariat of the Council. It acts as a forum for the exchange of opinions and experiences relating to gender equality issues. The Group is charged with contributing to the long-term strategic planning of EU gender equality initiatives, which includes organising gender equality conferences, informal ministerial meetings and the exchange of know-how programmes. The Group meets twice annually (January and September) in the country holding the EU presidency.

The Group supports the respective EU Presidency Trio in terms of identifying relevant policy areas and issues, acts as the central forum for strategic planning regarding the follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action and the development of relevant indicators, and aids the Commission with regard to preparation of the annual gender equality report.

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Group of Commissioners on Fundamental Rights, Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities

The Group of Commissioners on Fundamental Rights, Non-discrimination and Equal Opportunities is tasked with developing a policy to combat discrimination, promote gender equality and ensure that gender mainstreaming is incorporated within all policy areas.

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Interservice Group on Gender Equality

Since 1996, the Inter-service Group on Gender Equality has been regularly bringing together representatives of all the Commission services. The Group’s primary tasks are to plan gender mainstreaming activities, coordinate and contribute to pertinent activities within the framework of the annual work programme on gender equality, monitor implementation, facilitate the exchange of know-how and good practices, and create links to other groups concerned with gender equality issues.

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Network of Experts on Gender Equality

The Network of Experts on Gender Equality was set up in 2011 as a successor to the Expert Group on Gender and Employment (egge) and the Group of Experts on Gender Equality, Social Inclusion, Health, and Long-Term Care (eggsi). The network is coordinated by the Giacomo Brodolini Foundation in Italy and is comprised of labour market economists as well as experts in statistics, econometrics, social protection and social inclusion from all 27 member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and the candidate countries Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia.

The network also supports the work of the Commission in this area with external expertise. On the basis of an annual research programme, the network regularly reports to the gender equality unit of the Directorate-General for Justice and produces topical reports, overviews of current research and other formats for all 34 countries.

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European Network of Legal Experts in the Field of Gender Equality

The network ensures that the Commission is regularly informed of important legal developments in the field of gender equality in the member states and the impact of such. Since 1984, the network has been assisting the Commission in terms of monitoring implementation of the gender equality acquis throughout EU member states and in relation to the development of new legal initiatives in this field. The network is made up of independent experts, academics and practitioners who are newly appointed every three years from the 27 EU member states, EFTA countries and the candidate countries.

The network prepares the following:

  • a number of thematic reports in relation to the legislative activities of the Commission in the field of gender equality,
  • the ‘European Gender Equality Law Review’ on legislative and judicial developments at national and EU level,
  • other publications on European gender equality law and its implementation at national level, 
  • a synthesis report summarising the trends and primary legal developments of the year at national and EU level, and
  • short-term analyses and information documents on important legal developments.

The network also assists the Commission with legal and policy initiatives in the form of commentaries, recommendations for action and the gathering of legal data to enable comparison and the development of new EU instruments.

Selected network publications

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European Network of Women in Decision-Making in Politics and the Economy

The Commission launched the network in June 2008 to provide a platform for debate, to foster exchange of information and good practices, and to identify successful strategies in this area. The point of departure was to promote the equal participation of women and men in decision-making as one of the priorities of the Roadmap for equality (2006–2010). The network includes the presidents of various European networks committed to promoting gender equality in management positions (Current members).

During its meetings the network has addressed the following subjects:

•    the importance of mentoring, networking and role models for women’s career advancement;

•    women’s quotas as an instrument for balanced gender distribution in politics and on company management boards (see Working Paper ‘The quota-instrument: Different approaches across Europe’);

•    gender-specific differences in management position remuneration.

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Governmental Expert Group in the Field of Non-Discrimination and the Promotion of Equality

  • Governmental Expert Group – EU

With the aim of carrying forward the understanding and results of the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, in 2008 the Commission established a Governmental Expert Group in the field of non-discrimination and the promotion of equality. This expert group brings together government officials and relevant experts from the network of socio-economic experts in the member states.The Group

  • examines the impact of national and EU-level non-discrimination measures,
  • validates good practice through peer learning by means of twice-yearly seminars and
  • evaluates the effectiveness of non-discrimination policies.

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Network of Socio-economic Experts

Focusing on the most frequent forms of discrimination, this network provides the Commission with informed analysis of the situation in individual countries and an overview of their national policies. The network also supports the sharing of good practices between members of the Government Expert Group.

The primary instruments in this respect are the twice-yearly good practice exchange seminars for government officials and experts, which are co-organised by the network and the European Commission. The results of the seminars are published in reports.

Currently, the following reports by the network are available:

•    2011 report on public policies to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and how to overcome barriers, Tallinn seminar;

•    2011 report on public policies to combat age discrimination in accessing and advancing in employment, Vienna seminar;  

•    2010 report on public policies to combat racial and ethnic discrimination in accessing and advancing in employment, Berlin seminar;

•    2010 report on public policies to combat discrimination against and promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people (LGBT), The Hague seminar;

•    2009 report on non-discrimination mainstreaming, Helsinki seminar;  

•    2010 synthesis report – part I on the situation of LGBT groups and part II on ethnic minorities, migrants and employment;

•    2009 synthesis report – presenting a general picture of non-discrimination in the 27 EU countries and a description of the institutional framework and governance issues.  

Network of Legal Experts in the Field of Non-Discrimination

This network comprises thirty national experts (one from each EU country, plus Turkey, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and five coordinators, each dealing with different aspects of discrimination.

The network provides independent information and advice on the following:

  • national implementation of the two EU anti-discrimination directives;
  • national initiatives, proposals for new legislation and other political developments;
  • national case law and the question of whether it complies with EU law;
  • relevant judgments by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR);
  • good practice in providing legal protection against discrimination.

In addition, the network regularly publishes the ‘European Anti-discrimination Law Review’, thematic reports and national reports.

Expert Group to Promote Inclusion of Ethnic Minorities in the European Union

Set up by the European Commission in 2005 under its framework strategy for tacking discrimination, the Group incorporated ten eminent personalities from business, local politics, civil society, academia and the media and was chaired by the former President of the German Parliament, Rita Süssmuth.

The Group focused on issues such as good practices to aid the integration of disadvantaged ethnic groups within the labour market, and on the promotion of pragmatic, workable concepts in this area. In its work, the Group drew on a new study launched by the Commission and on the experiences of existing EU programmes, such as the Community initiative EQUAL. In 2007 it reported back with policy recommendations on how the EU could resolve the problems of social and labour market exclusion of disadvantaged minorities. The study was published in early 2008.

The study ‘Ethnic minorities in the labour market – an urgent call for better social inclusion. Report of the High Level Advisory Group of Experts on the social integration of ethnic minorities and their full participation in the labour market’ can be downloaded: Ethnic Minorities in the Labour Market – an Urgent Call for Better Social Inclusion (122 pages, PDF)

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European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET)

Equinet, the European Network of Equality Bodies, is tasked with furthering cooperation, information exchange and good practices between the respective national organisations working to combat discrimination and promote equality in areas regulated by EU equal treatment/anti-discrimination legislation. It began as a two-year project entitled ‘Strengthening the co-operation between specialised bodies for the implementation of equal treatment legislation’ (2002–2004), and was financed by the Commission. Equinet was established as a network in 2007 and since then has been funded by the PROGRESS programme. The network brings together 37 member organisations from 30 European countries; its secretariat is located in Brussels.

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Council of Europe Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men

The Steering Committee monitors the gender equality situation in Europe and promotes cooperation between member states. Its tasks include preparation of analyses and studies, the drafting of policy strategies and – where necessary – preparation of the appropriate legal instruments. Its primary activities also encompass measures regarding the balanced participation of women and men in politics and public decision-making, gender mainstreaming and efforts to combat violence against women. The Committee also prepares the international ministerial conferences on gender equality of the Council of Europe’s member states.

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European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

The Vienna-based Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) was founded on the basis of an EU Council Regulation of 15 February 2007. It is tasked with assisting Community institutions, authorities and member states in the implementation of Community law on fundamental rights and providing information and specialist knowledge to aid the determination of measures and actions. The Agency does not have the authority to examine individual complaints or rulings.

The primary tasks of the Agency for Fundamental Rights include

  • the collection, analysis and dissemination of objective, reliable and comparative data on fundamental rights in the member states;
  • development of methods and standards to improve data quality and comparability;
  • the conducting and/or promoting of research and studies on fundamental rights;
  • preparation and publication of conclusions and opinions on specific issues – on its own initiative or at the request of the European Parliament, Council or Commission;
  • the promotion of dialogue with civil society for the purpose of raising public awareness of fundamental rights.

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Further Links on EU Institutions Dealing with Equality Issues

The website of the Directorate-General for Justice of the EU Commission provides detailed information which is subdivided into task areas:

•    the task area ‘Gender equality’ and  

•    the task area ‘Tackling discrimination’.

The Ministers for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs are responsible for the topic of gender equality in the Council of the EU (change link :…).

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