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Incorporation of equal opportunities into Community policies
The European Union sets out the principle that the gender perspective should systematically be taken into account in all Community policies and actions; this should be done actively and openly at the planning stage.
Communication from the Commission of 21 February 1996 "Incorporating equal opportunities for women and men into all Community policies and activities" [COM(96) 67 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The principle of 'gender mainstreaming' consists of taking systematic account of the differences between the conditions, situations and needs of women and men in all Community policies and actions. This global, horizontal approach requires the mobilisation of all policies.
The Communication first presents the acquis communautaire on equality and the outlook for action in various areas:
- employment and the labour market: the Commission intends to continue to structure a legal framework for equal opportunities, and to rationalise and improve the integration of its measures to support studies of female entrepreneurship and the reconciliation of family and working life;
- women entrepreneurs and assisting spouses in SMEs, including the agriculture and fisheries sectors: the Commission intends to reinforce measures to help women in SMEs, in particular by improving flexibility of work, vocational qualifications, and access to finance;
- education and training; all Community activities in the fields of education, training or youth designed to incorporate equal opportunities, either as a specific objective or an additional priority;
- people's rights: the Commission has mounted actions to combat violence against women and the trafficking in people and to reintegrate into society the victims of such traffic, while activities to improve the safety and integrity of female refugees are being envisaged;
- development cooperation: the Commission intends to continue to incorporate the principle of gender mainstreaming in Community development policies and in development cooperation agreements with developing countries, using strategies set out in the Commission's Communication on integrating gender issues in development cooperation [COM(1995) 423 final - Not published in the Official Journal];
- staff policy: the Commission has applied an equal opportunities policy to its staff for many years through positive action programmes.
The second part of the Communication describes the role of the Structural Funds, the Community's main financial instrument and one which is used in relation to several of these areas with a view to promoting equal opportunities.
The progressive implementation of these guidelines calls for a significant increase in cooperation within the Commission's departments and strengthening of the partnership with the Member States and the various players and organisations concerned.
The Commissions Communication follows on from the European Community's participation in the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women,held in Beijing in September 1995.