European policy


To ensure gender equality and the implementation of the dual gender equality approach in grassroots-level projects supported by the ESF and other Structural Funds, a coherent strategy and process must initially be put in place in all EU and national policy and implementation cycles.

The policy cycles are informed by all levels and are mutually interdependent.  However, the cycles are top-down processes, beginning with policy planning and implementation at the European level.

It is therefore essential to ensure that gender mainstreaming, and specific actions (i.e. dual approach) are in place throughout this policy cycle. It cannot be taken for granted that this process will happen “naturally”. It is necessary both to specify requirements and to provide capacity-building support for all relevant actors.

This section explains how gender equality can be integrated in all the structures, processes and thematic priorities of EU policy-making:

The figure below provides an overview of EU and national policy documents and legal texts which form the context and background for the integration of gender equality and the dual gender equality approach of the EU into the ESF and other Structural Funds during the period 2014–2020:

(Please click on the figure below for a zoomed-in version or click here).


The policy planning cycle for cohesion policy 2014 – 2020 started in 2010 and the most important EU programming phase is currently underway. For this reason the Gender CoP has decided to adopt a structured approach by:

  • outlining general gender equality requirements in the structures and processes as well as within thematic areas of the cycle
  • analysing the requirements that are already in place in existing EU documents, illustrating the integration of gender equality

The aim of this section of the STANDARD is to illustrate gender equality coherence in the policy analysis (cohesion report), the policy programme objectives (EU 2020 Strategy, Flagship Initiatives, and Employment Guidelines), documents designing the implementation of the cohesion policies in the Member States (Common Strategic Framework, Regulations and Guidelines as well as documents for the Member States and regions containing requirements for the next cycle [e.g. Partnership Agreement, COM position paper on Partnership Agreement, Operational Programme, and Ex-Ante Evaluation of the Operational Programmes of the Member States and for Monitoring and Evaluation].

In a later stage of the STANDARD, the implementation reports of the Member States, Commission evaluations of the implementation of the cohesion policy, as well as cohesion reports will also be subject to the STANDARD.

The main actors and negotiating partners within the planning and programming phase at EU level, and therefore the target group of this part of the STANDARD, are those actors involved in policy design and programming as well as in negotiations between the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council.

Gender equality and cohesion policy of the European Union

Since the ratification of the Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties by the EU Member States, Gender Equality and the dual Gender Equality approach of the European Union are integral, binding parts of the planning, programming, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of all EU policies. The Gender Equality Strategy, the Gender Equality Pact and the Women`s Charter have identified the most significant gender gaps in the European Union.

The documents outline objectives and contain descriptions of the gender gaps to be tackled  by the Cohesion Policy and the Structural Funds. The Gender Equality Pact – ratified by the Member States – is of special importance because it is legally binding for the Member States and regions, and there is a high degree of interdependence between it and the European Union’s core strategy, Europe 2020.

A coherent integration of the Gender Equality Strategy and its objectives – above all the overarching objective of economic independence of women and men – is lacking in the analytical and policy programming documents (e.g. in the cohesion report, and in the Europe 2020 Strategy and its Flagships). However, many gender gaps identified and gender equality objectives set in the Strategy, the Pact, and the Charter are reflected in the Employment Guidelines, the Common Strategic Framework, the Common Provisions Regulation for the ESI funds (CPR Regulation), the ESF Regulation, and other EU documents. 

Further reading

Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men: Opinion on gender equality in the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020

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Created: 2013/01/06   Changed: 2014/12/04