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Speech by Minister Marjeta Cotman at the meeting of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in the European Parliament

Madam Chairwoman,

Distinguished Members of the Committee,

Let me first thank you for the invitation to attend this meeting of the Committee to present the priorities of the Slovenian EU Council Presidency in the field of gender equality. I see the meeting as an excellent opportunity both for encouraging the necessary discussions on subjects in this field and for bolstering cooperation between the Council and Parliament. After speaking, I will listen with interest to your positions and views and do my best to respond to your questions and initiatives.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a pleasure to be here with you today not only as a Slovene but also as a woman and a mother who comes across gender equality issues every day in both her professional and private life.

Society is changing. What seemed impossible fifty years ago is a reality today. Fifty years ago there were still places where women did not have the right to vote but today we are sitting here – you, the elected representatives of citizens and, myself, a government minister from a country that a few years ago did not even exist. Together with our male colleagues, we shape our destiny and the destiny of our citizens. Yet any change, however positive, requires adjustment. This is the core of our discussions and actions on gender equality - these are major projects.

The Slovenian Presidency programme is the third and last component of the joint trio Presidency programme prepared by Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. In line with the commitments set forth in two Trio Presidency Declarations entitled “Towards Gender Equality in the European Union”, the second of which focuses on promoting gender equality in the context of the Lisbon Strategy, we wish to continue from the point Germany and Portugal have reached with their excellent and successful work. Incidentally, we would underline that the experience of our Trio Presidency can be a good example of cooperation and of handing down to our successors.

Let me begin with gender mainstreaming, which became the fundamental strategy for gender equality policy.

The Slovenian Presidency will continue the process of monitoring the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. We will develop girl-child indicators and draw up a report on women in political decision making. This involves the indicators adopted during the Finnish Presidency in 1999. We will also follow with interest the work of your Committee in this respect.

Conclusions on both groups of indicators will be discussed at the regular session of the Council of Ministers to be held at the beginning of June in Luxembourg.

The Presidency will endeavour to continue to practice gender mainstreaming in all relevant political processes and areas at the national level and in various Council formations.

In the practice of gender mainstreaming and in strengthening and promoting gender equality policy in the EU institutions and Member States, an important role will be played by the European Institute for Gender Equality.


Madam Chairwoman,

Distinguished Members,

Allow me to continue by outlining the most important topics which will be at the forefront of the Slovenian Presidency's concerns.

Gender stereotypes are one of the most persistent causes of gender inequality, pervading all areas and every stage of life. The Slovenian Presidency will, therefore, place particular emphasis on the elimination of gender stereotypes, which is one of the key objectives of EU gender equality policy.

Attention will be paid to the issues of increasing participation by women in society and advancing the role and status of women.

In two days' time, the Conference entitled “Elimination of Gender Stereotypes: Mission (Im)Possible?” will be held in Slovenia. Our goal is to highlight possible ways to eliminate traditional gender roles and stereotypes, in particular in the areas of education, training, the labour market, culture and the media.

Your Committee has also been invited to participate in the conference. I am convinced that good work will be produced.  I hope the conclusions of the conference to be adopted at the meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in June will be instrumental in eliminating gender stereotypes.

The day after the conference I will be hosting the informal meeting of EU ministers responsible for gender equality. This will be the most important event in this field to be held during the Presidency.

On the agenda for discussion are the issues of participation of women in society and of advancing the role and status of women. We will tackle a wide range of questions on achieving gender equality. They will include advancing the role and position of very young girls, balanced representation and participation of women and men in political decision-making and the importance of policies on gender equality in development cooperation.

One of the key tasks of the Slovenian Presidency will be the efficient and timely preparation of the next cycle of the Lisbon Strategy. I believe the new guidelines must ensure the continuity and stability of the renewed Strategy, enabling it to deliver results. The female employment rate of 57.2 percent is close to achieving the target of 60 percent. We should, therefore, follow the guidelines set in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We should primarily endeavour to eliminate all gaps between women and men in employment and on the labour market, including the gender pay gap.

In this, it is our desire to cooperate constructively with the European Parliament. We must strive above all to ensure that the new guidelines take account of the principle of gender equality as well as demographic challenges and the principles of flexicurity and that they give more prominence to social considerations.


Madam Chairwoman,

Distinguished Members,

If you permit, I would like to refer to a number of events scheduled to be held during the Presidency in the field of employment, social affairs and equal opportunities. Gender equality issues will be debated at the following events.

Enforcement of the common principles of flexicurity will be a subject discussed by the Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs at their informal meeting. Special attention will be paid to the challenges faced by women on the labour market.

It is not only women-friendly policies that are important for reconciling professional, private and family life but also measures which enable both women and men to realise their professional potential and discharge their family responsibilities.Like all parents, I myself am confronted with the challenge of how to reconcile obligations at work with those at home.It is not always easy. It is therefore important that States provide appropriate measures to enable women and men to reconcile professional, private and family responsibilities more easily.We should endeavour to encourage men to play a more active role in family life and household chores.This will ensure that all fathers have an opportunity to actively participate in caring for their children.At the same time it will improve the status of women in employment and on the labour market.

Several other events will be organised in Slovenia at which gender equality will be addressed as an important aspect.

At the conference entitled “Work for young people – welfare for all”, the reconciliation of the professional, private and family lives of women and men will be one of four topics for discussion.The decision to start a family is often taken during the early part of the professional careers of women and men.Reconciliation of professional and family life is one of key challenges with a view to achieving gender equality as defined in the Lisbon Strategy.

At the conference on intergenerational solidarity and long-term care, new forms of co-existence of different generations will be discussed. Here, we cannot ignore the fact that care for dependent adults and other family members rests predominantly with women. On the one hand, this reinforces the traditional role played by women in caring for family and, on the other hand, it is an impediment to their professional career. 


Distinguished Committee Members,

There are undoubtedly many other outstanding issues relating to women and gender equality. The work of your Committee clearly suggests as much. We should not ignore issues such as violence against women, the status of women in different sectors or different parts of the world and the impact of migration on the status of women, to list but a few.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a Slovene, I am immensely proud of the fact that my country is holding the EU Council Presidency. It will further contribute to Slovenia's development and to the well-being of its citizens. At the same time, however, we cannot overlook the fact that Slovenia is a small country. In making up the agenda of the Presidency, Slovenia has had to confine itself to a few areas for action.

It is of key importance, therefore, that we work hard on the few areas selected and generate added value.

I look forward to excellent cooperation with you not only during the Presidency but also after. I am convinced that I have your support and that through our joint efforts we can make further progress.

Thank you.

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Date: 28.01.2008