Panel 510: Gender in European Politics and Policies - Policies and Resistance
The Construction of LGBTI rights as EU Norm
University of Basel, Switzerland
Over the past three decades, the European Union has introduced some major legal and policy changes in the field of LGBTI rights and more recently has started to portray itself as a promoter of LGBT rights. LGBTI rights seem to have reached a “tipping point” as a norm for the EU in the past few years - especially considering their role in enlargement and external politics. However, while LGBTI rights are, in certain areas, used to demonstrate modernity, exceptionalism and therefore superiority of the EU in relation to its “others”, the internal debate shows a less consistent picture: Several policy pieces concerning member states or EU institutions were adopted surprisingly late or are still blocked (e.g. an extended anti-discrimination directive, the Commission’s “List of a and action to advance LGBTI equality” and a Commission staff regulation mentioning LGBTI). In the European Parliament, anti-LGBTI and anti-gender rhetorics are on the rise again.
This paper argues that in this context, especially statements by individuals or institutions and symbolic action (e.g. flying the rainbow flag from the Commission building) often rather serve as a call for action or critique of internal resistances than a demonstration of achievements. Furthermore, the almost ritualized reference to the human rights identity of the EU or to the idea of “leading by example” could be understood as a search for a common identity, the struggle to agree on basic values, and a discussion about the extension of the competencies of the EU.
Based on a discourse analysis of policy documents, debates and interviews with policy actors, this paper investigates how LGBTI rights are currently constructed as norm and problem that needs to be addressed by EU institutions by different actors. It focuses on discourses used to justify action in this field, reaching from references to the “human rights myth” of the EU, the desire to “lead by example” to the neoliberal re-validation of diversity. Special attention will be given to the phenomenon that the practice of international solidarity in LGBTI activism and the feeling of a shared identity and culture of LGBTI people surpassing national border turns them into models for the “ideal European citizen”.
A Critical Frame Analysis of the Trajectories of Resistance in the Implementation of Gender Equality Policies in Poland
Tampere University, Finland
Despite having adopted the anti-discrimination rules and gender mainstreaming principles required in the acquis communautaire, structural and symbolic gender inequalities pervade institutionally and discursively in Polish politics. The question remains: what happens with the gender equality policies after the formal adoption in East-Central European EU member states? By taking a critical frame perspective to Polish political debates on gender equality policy, I argue that the democratization and the Europeanization processes that culminated in EU accession, have only been a case of swapping one type of proclaimed gender equality policy for another. The acceptance, transposition into national law, and implementation of the EU acquis concerning gender equality have been merely skin-deep and, once codified, seemed to be a ‘done deal’ that needed no further work. From the early transformation rejection of gender parity (as tainted by ‘communism’), which meant on the one hand smaller numbers of women in parliament, through the peak of hopes in Europeanization around the accession to the EU, and trailing down to significant ultra-conservative and nationalist backlash in the recent years, I trace the framing of the implementation of gender equality policies and show the complex position of an East-Central European state in the processes of Europeanization and soft norm diffusion. I specifically discuss the current Polish parliament, which has been successfully mainstreaming anti-gender equality rhetoric. I argue that the ambivalent framing of the previous governments in terms of their commitment to implement gender equality policies has paved the way for the current dismantling of the already weak institutional guarantors of anti-discrimination and equality.
Struggles about Gender and the Economy in the European Parliament Debates about Economic Governance
Tampere University, Finland
The strengthened economic governance of the European Union has been criticized for being gendered and de-democratizing. While the EU’s economic policy priorities and recommendations, in particular those related to fiscal consolidation and competitiveness, have been shown to have gendered effects across Europe, the EU institutions’ narrow and gendered conception of economy has made it difficult to see these impacts. At the same time, new governance processes and rules have narrowed down spaces for democratic deliberation and decision-making as well as civil society participation.
Although the European Parliament’s role in the post-crisis EU’s economic governance is limited, the Parliament could have an important role to play in challenging the invisibility of gender equality in as well as the gendered understanding of the economy behind the EU’s policy priorities and recommendations. This paper assesses, based on a feminist political economy approach, the possibilities and constrains of the European Parliament in gendering the EU economic governance. Based on analysis of committee documents and debates as well as interviews with MEPs and political advisors, the paper analyzes struggles between the EP’s political groups in the 2014–2019 parliamentary term. It compares the positions of different political groups on EU economic governance from a gender perspective and highlights the strategies and obstacles involved in bringing feminist knowledge about the economy in economic policy debates and negotiations within and between political groups in the EP. The focus on political groups sheds light on the gendered power struggles behind the scenes and makes visible how political groups and the power dynamics and compromises between them act as gatekeepers for more progressive and feminist outcomes in the field of economic policy.