EQUAPRO Coalition Presents Progress on Gender-mainstreaming the EU Accession Process

The Regional Coalition for Gender Equality in the European Union (EU) Accession Process (EQUAPRO) presented its report “Towards an Inclusive Gender-responsive EU Accession of the Western Balkans” (WB) on progress and challenges in gender-mainstreaming the EU Accession process during an online event on 28 February, which involved more than a hundred stakeholders.

In her opening remarks, Hillen Francke, Head of the Sector for Civil Society, Social Inclusion and Human Capital Development in the WB and Turkey at the European Commission, highlighted the importance of a gender responsive and participatory EU Accession process. “Gender equality and women’s rights are key elements of the enlargement process, and projects like this one help us identify what are the remaining challenges and what are the main drivers for change,” she said. She emphasised the crucial role that civil society plays in holding both the government and EU accountable. “There is a lot of work to be done, and I think your recommendations are super useful,” she said.

For EQUAPRO, Giulia Pasquinelli presented the regional report, which compared progress towards furthering gender equality in the EU Accession process in 2021 and 2022. Key points included:

  • In 2022, an average of 13% of chapters in country reports for the Western Balkans (WB) were gender-mainstreamed, marking a slight decrease from 14% in 2021. Kosovo led the way with 37% of chapters gender-mainstreamed.
  • All countries developed Country-Level Implementation Plans (CLIPS) for the EU Gender Action Plan III with Kosovo and North Macedonia extensively consulting women’s civil society organizations (WCSOs) in this process.
  • The EU has gender-mainstreamed most new actions (90%) in 2022 compared to 76% in 2021. However, inconsistent use of gender markers and mismarking persisted, potentially leading to incorrect estimates of EU financing towards gender equality.
  • WCSOs were not adequately consulted in programming the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) III; the Strategic Response informing this programming was not made publicly available in Kosovo as part of public consultation processes.
  • Stabilisation and Association Agreement dialogues and structures did not engage diverse WCSOs regularly, except in Kosovo where the EU and government both had processes for consulting CSOs on agendas, a practice that could be adopted in other countries.
  • The EU Accession process continues to drive pro-democratic reforms, though results are mixed. The need for ongoing monitoring to ensure substantive, transformative, and sustainable changes was underlined.

EQUAPRO members then shared key findings from their countries.

In providing closing remarks on behalf of EQUAPRO, Nicole Farnsworth, KWN Programme Director, reiterated points raised during the discussion, including the importance of:

  • Political dialogue that recognises and meaningfully engages diverse WCSOs
  • Political will on behalf of EU and government officials to gender mainstream the EU Accession process
  • Establishing structures that will institutionalise the gender-mainstreaming of these processes, regardless of who holds decision-making positions, such as ensuring structured political dialogue with WCSOs, obligatory checklists to guide the gender-marking of EU-funded actions and requiring contractors to enter data on funding towards gender equality and for WCSOs when entering data into the EU’s data management system OPSYS
  • Ensuring conflict-sensitive gender analysis and women’s engagement in all decision-making as per EU commitments in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, particularly given the threat and continued existence of conflict in the WB

She emphasised EQUAPRO’s commitment to continuing cooperation among WCSOs, the EU, and governments towards achieving shared aims of gender-mainstreaming the EU Accession process. Although this regional Action supported by the EU and Sweden ended in February, Farnsworth noted that EQUAPRO members will continue monitoring these processes, holding the government and EU accountable, and supporting progress in gender-mainstreaming EU Accession processes.