The Structural Funds Regulations have been published in December 2013. The final documents have been assessed by the Gender CoP. The Common Provisions Regulation is applicable to the five European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020 (ESI), but fund-specific Regulations for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), and the Cohesion Fund (CF), as well as for European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), have been developed as well.
The CPR Regulation expresses a commitment to gender equality and the integration of the gender mainstreaming strategy:
“The Member States and the Commission shall ensure that equality between men and women and the integration of gender perspective are taken into account and promoted throughout the preparation and implementation, in relation to monitoring, reporting and evaluation of programmes.” CPR Regulation, Art. 7
Horizontal principles, gender equality and non-discrimination are clearly required to be mainstreamed. However, there is no differentiation between the various strategies, and the second part of the dual approach (specific actions) is not mentioned:
“Promotion of equality between men and women and non-discrimination. In accordance with Article 7, Member States shall pursue the objective of equality between men and women and must take appropriate steps to prevent any discrimination and to ensure accessibility during the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of operations in the programmes co-financed by the CSF Funds. When pursuing the objectives of Article 7, Member States shall describe in detail actions to be taken, in particular with regard to selection of operations, setting of objectives for interventions, and arrangements for monitoring and reporting. Member States shall also carry out gender analyses where appropriate.” CPR Regulation)
Thematic objectives of the CPR Regulation
The CPR Regulation lists the following 11 thematic objectives that the Structural Funds are to support, tying in with the Europe 2020 Strategy, and it is up to the Member States to choose their investment priorities when preparing funding. Thematic objectives 8, 9, and 10 are of special importance for the ESF:
- strengthening research, technological development and innovation;
- enhancing access to, and use and quality of, ICT;
- enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, of the agricultural sector (for the EAFRD) and of the fishery and aquaculture sector (for the EMFF);
- supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors;
- promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management;
- preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency;
- promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures;
- promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility;
- promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination;
- investing in education, training and vocational training for skills and lifelong learning;
- enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration.
The CPR Regulation 2014-2020 focuses on gender equality objectives and the dual gender equality approach more than in previous funding periods. But requirements that gender equality be integrated into all steps of planning and programming, as well as into procedures and thematic issues/areas of intervention (and that this needs to be reflected in all chapters and articles of the regulation) are lacking.
In the thematic objectives formulated in the CPR Regulation, gender equality objectives and thematic gender aspects are not taken into account, nor are explicit gender equality objectives in place.
The ESF Regulation contains the most comprehensive requirements for the integration of the dual gender equality approach of all Funds Regulations.
”The ESF shall promote high levels of employment and job quality, improve access to the labour market, support the geographical and occupational mobility of workers and facilitate their adaptation to industrial change and to changes in production systems needed for sustainable developments, encourage a high level of education and training for all and support the transition between education and employment for young people, combat poverty, enhance social inclusion, and promote gender equality, non-discrimination and equal opportunities, thereby contributing to the priorities of the Union as regards strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion.” ESF Regulation
Article 7 – promotion of equality between men and women
“The Member States and the Commission shall promote equality between men and women through mainstreaming as referred to in Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No [CPR] throughout the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programmes. Through the ESF, they shall also support specific targeted actions within any of the investment priorities as referred to in Article 3, and in particular Article 3 (1)(a)(iv), with the aim of increasing the sustainable participation and progress of women in employment, thus combating the feminisation of poverty, reducing gender-based segregation and combating gender stereotypes in the labour market and in education and training, promoting reconciliation of work and personal life for all and equal sharing of care responsibilities between men and women.”
Except for the overarching objective of “economic independence of women and men”, supporting the “egalitarian gender equality model”, and the invisible Gender Budgeting Strategy, the ESF Regulation addresses some of the most burning gender equality issues and strategies to overcome gender gaps.