European Union External Action

Gender Action Plan III: Remarks by the High Representative / Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference

Brussels, 25/11/2020 - 13:17, UNIQUE ID: 201125_41

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Good morning, This [Action Plan] will be the framework that will guide our external action on issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the next five years. It is symbolic that we present this Plan today, when we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

You know that we are living in difficult times on this issue. Women’s rights and gender equality are increasingly attacked and questioned in many places in the world and, unhappily, not a single country in Europe or anywhere [else] in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 in the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

There is a big need to act and to act fast. This Plan adopted by the Commission is a proof that the political will is there.

The aim of the new Action Plan on Gender Equality that the College adopted today is to develop a comprehensive framework towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in all elements of the European Union external action, in coherence with the European Union gender equality strategy adopted last March.

And also in the spirit of the Team Europe approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting together the work of the European Union institutions and all Member States.

We want to tackle all dimensions of discrimination, paying specific attention to women with disabilities, migrant women, and discrimination based on age or sexual orientation.

This plan also sets the ground for a more active role of women in peace and security. The European Union has been in the front-line helping women’s participation in the political and decision-making processes of countries in conflict. To mention a few: Syria, Libya, Colombia, Afghanistan or Yemen.

This is why the Action Plan integrates one of the key pillars of our action on conflict prevention: the European Union policy framework on Women, Peace and Security, to make this work more consistent with our institutions and our Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations.

These are my introductory words, but I am sure that my colleague and friend [Commissioner for International Partnerships], Jutta Urpilainen, will go more into the details.

Link to the video:


Q1. Commissioner [Urpilainen] just outlined the importance to work together with Member States on this Gender Action Plan. Just on Monday, I believe, there was a prediscussion on this Gender Action Plan at the Development Council videoconference, where you [Commissioner Urpilainen] were also present. Two countries, namely Hungary and Poland, opposed the mentioning of the term “gender equality”, which now happens to be on the title of this plan. How to do you think this plan can actually go ahead and -built on the cooperation with Member States- find a majority in the Council? Do you also think that the European Union can be credible in the world when two Member States are blocking this?

The term “gender equality” is widely used and universally understood. It is the name used for the Development Goals, it is written in the international rights treaties and also in EU treaties and EU law. The College [of Commissioners] agreed unanimously on using this term. If the Council, which is a different institution, has some difficulties with that, we will see what to do. But the College has perfectly understood the deep meaning of this way of addressing the problem. I think it is in accordance with article 8 and 10 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union. The Court of Justice [of the European Union] has recognized that individuals can invoke and enforce their right to gender equality under the European Union law.

Q. What is different about this Gender Action Plan compared to Gender Action Plans I and II?

We say it is the first ever time that we present an action plan like this but we call it “three” so it means that before that there were two others. But there is a big difference, the two previous action plans were staff working documents, they were not endorsed by the Commission.

This one is being presented to the Commission and the Commission has adopted it as a Communication. This provides a policy framework for the promotion of gender equality using all the tools of the Commission and with the political commitment of the Commission as an institution. This makes a big difference.

Secondly, because we increased the number of actions and funding targeted to gender equality to reach the level of 85% of all new actions by 2025, and thirdly, because we link that to the political priorities of the Commission to ensure an internal/external policy coherence. We increase public accountability, monitoring, reporting, and quantitative objectives that will be the core of this plan because now it is the Commission itself who is engaged with it.

Q. High Representative, I would like to ask where we are in the Eastern Mediterranean conference, whether it will take place and whether there are tangible signs or if you are expecting to see from Turkey a change of attitude apart from the nice words [President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan made over the weekend?

Yes, I expect it. About the conference, I am sorry, I cannot give you more information. There is nothing new that I can tell you.

Link to the video: