Warsaw, Poland – An EU plan to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment and LGBT rights as part of its foreign policy has been blocked by Poland and Hungary.
Presented by the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and the EU commissioner for international partnerships Jutta Urlipainen on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, “Gender Action Plan III” seeks to bolster gender equality, women’s and LGBTQI rights worldwide by “challenging gender norms and stereotypes”.
According to Urlipainen, the goal is to include gender equality as a key objective in 85% of the bloc’s foreign policy initiatives (compared to 64% today). “Women and girls are in the frontline of the pandemic and must be put in the driving seat of the recovery”, she said in a statement. “As a gender-sensitive and responsible geopolitical Commission, we want to work more closely with our Member States, as well as our partners, in building a truly gender-equal world”.
The plan was however immediately opposed by Poland and Hungary during a meeting of EU development ministers this week, with both countries contesting the use of the term “gender equality”.
“The treaty of the European Union very clearly refers not to gender equality but to equality between women and men”, declared Poland’s State Secretary for Development Cooperation Pawel Jablonski. “We see no need to redefine that and we do not appreciate attempts to do so. We should rather follow legal norms instead of inventing new ones, especially if they may be prone to uncertain interpretations and various translating problems”.
The Hungarian government also voiced strong reservations regarding the EU plan. “Defining the concept of gender falls under the exclusive competence of the member states, which must be respected”, said Hungary’s Permanent Representation to the EU. “EU documents should therefore only contain references that are acceptable for each member state and build on sound legal foundations, consensual definitions”.
The “Gender Action Plan III“, spearheaded by the European Commission who is in charge of the bloc’s foreign policy initiatives, “is not dependent on Council conclusions, although of course we count on Council political endorsement”, said Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero.
A unanimous vote of all 27 member states is needed for the Council to back the agenda.
Poland and Hungary have long been at odds with Brussels on the issue of LGBT rights and opposed the use of the term “gender equality” in other EU initiatives, which they describe as an artificial construct and a “foreign ideology”.
Responding to the opposition from Warsaw and Budapest, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell noted that “the term gender equality is widely used and universally understood […] It’s enshrined in international rights treaties and finds its basis in the treaty and basic Union law”.
Main photo credit: European External Action Service