Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation


On the way to a European Constitution?

The Constitutional Treaty: A Gender Perspective

Charlotte Bretherton - On the way to a European Constitution? The Constitutional Treaty: A Gender Perspective.

Charlotte Bretherton

Despite the controversial use of the word ‘federal´ in Article 1.1 of the Praesidium´s draft of the first sixteen Articles of the proposed Constitutional Treaty (February 2003), both this document and the Preliminary Draft Constitutional Treaty (October 2002) give an overall impression of timidity. Simplification of the Treaties, while necessary and welcome, is rarely accompanied by strengthening of their provisions. An example of specific relevance to this Workshop is the disappointing failure to extend EU citizenship to all those legally resident in the EU. I frequently encounter the problems this causes when travelling with student groups to visit the EU institutions in Brussels. If this issue is not addressed in the final version of the Constitution it will be exacerbated following accession of the Baltic Republics, given the sizeable Russian minorities resident in those countries.

From a gender perspective, however, the drafts are more than disappointing, they are alarming. They represent a major step backwards from the TEC as amended at Amsterdam in 1997, appearing to substantiate fears that the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention would be dominated by ageing men. Thus the October 2002 draft made no mention of equality between women and men, although this is now included among the Union´s objectives (but not its values) in the new Draft (at Article 3.2), doubtless in response to strong criticism. Beyond this, however, there is no reference to the two important principles enshrined at Amsterdam – those of gender mainstreaming in respect of all the Community´s activities (Article 3.2, TEC) and of positive discrimination in favour of ‘the under-represented sex´ (Article 141.4, TEC). In relation to the objective of achieving gender equality, these are important implementing mechanisms which should be included in the Constitutional Treaty.

Given their importance, it may be useful to examine these principles more carefully. Gender mainstreaming involves –

"The systematic integration of the respective situations, priorities and needs of women and men in all policies and with a view to promoting equality between women and men and mobilising all general policies and measures specifically for the purpose of achieving equality by actively and openly taking into account, at the planning stage, their effects on the respective situations of women and men in implementation, monitoring and evaluation."[1]

Clearly gender mainstreaming is a complex and demanding policy requiring awareness and commitment from policy makers and officials at all levels. Its implementation has been at best patchy and in some policy areas, notably in relation to enlargement, there has been no effort to mainstream gender. Given the nature of the enlargement process, with its detailed review of all areas of EU activity, this would have provided an important learning opportunity for all those involved, both within the EU and in the accession countries.

These failures suggest both that commitment to mainstreaming should be strengthened rather than abandoned; and that positive discrimination is essential in order to achieve a more equitable gender balance in decision-making and participation by civil society. If substance is to be given to the understanding that 'equality between the sexes is one of the basic principles of the European model of democracy' [2], provision must be made in the Constitutional Treaty for ensuring and supporting participation by the under-represented sex, within and outside the institutions of the European Union.


Commission (1996) Incorporating Equal Opportunities for Women and Men into all Community Policies and Activities COM(96) 650 final.
Commission (1996) Fourth Medium-Term Community Action Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (1996-2000) V/231b/96

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