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Equality action: What Spain did for women

Spanish EU Presidency comes to an end


Spain's strong women: Elena Salgado, Spain's Minister of Economy and Finance © ES 2010
From the beginning of her work as Representative of the Spanish Presidency in the field of equality, Bibiana Aido had made it clear what she wanted to achieve.

Time and time again, she reminded the member states of their expressed commitments and previous decisions to finally take action: on violence against women, on unequal pay, on fighting gender stereotypes, discrimination and sexual harassment. 
Her achievements after six months of extensive battling have included:
  • A Council Resolution (the most powerful agreement in the EU) on the creation of a European observatory on gender-based violence "based on existing institutional structures" 
  • Establishing of a EU-wide toll free helpline for victims of violence against women
  • An agreement reached with the EU Parliament on the Directive (the EU's legislation) proposal on equal rights between self-employed men and women in which, for the first time, Europe recognizes the right of spouses to social protection and maternity leave. 
  • A directive aimed at overcoming gender stereotypes in education and career guidance
  • A roadmap to tackle the issue of women in the media: Cyprus will be the first Presidency to work on the subject; Ireland will take over in 2013 and present the final report.  
However, not all her initiatives were a success - the conclusion of a European Protection Order (granting the same level of protection and shelter in any EU country to all victims, but particularly to those who have suffered gender violence) failed because it did not get support from all member states.

Nevertheless, the Spanish Presidency came very close to fulfilling its ambition of being "transforming rather than managing".

Not only because of a set of strong policies President Zapatero and Minister Aido were able to assert but also because of the personalities the Presidency put forward - Bibiana Aido was not the only  superwoman in the Zapatero squad. 

Economy and Finance Minister, Elena Saldago, had her own great moments. She was the woman who lead the Euro-group through the Greek bankruptcy crisis and into a new era of tougher laws and tighter controls for public spending in the EU (and paving the way for taxation of financial transactions).

Elena Espinosa, Minister of the Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs, initiated an overhaul of the European agricultural policies to improve fairness, competitiveness and sustainability. 

Anna Térron led the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council to an unanimous vote on immigration of unaccompanied minors. 

So far, the incoming Belgium Presidency as well as the following Hungarian Presidency have pledged to continue the Spanish work on equality. But in its working program so far, Belgium only mentions the issue of violence against women explicitly (with no further clarification).

"We will have to wait and see", expert Tetmoniva says. "But my guess is, the days of the Spanish bliss are over. Now equality of women and men will fall behind again."


Shila Meyer Behjat
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