The proposed European Commission (EC) has just been approved by the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg. The current Commission consists of only nine women out of 28 which is no progress in comparison to the outgoing Barroso Commission.

“Before Jean-Claude Juncker was appointed president of the EC, he promised a modern and a female Commission. Unfortunately, this Commission is miles away from being a female Commission and is clearly not a mirror of European society, of which more than half of the population is female and much more diverse,” says Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL). Since its establishment, the EWL has demanded parity in all EU institutions and asks Member States to nominate one female and one male candidate for the College of Commissioners. For the EWL, it is a question of justice and fairness, as advocated in its 50/50 campaign with the title: “No modern Democracy without Gender Equality”.

While many analysts believe the worse of the EU’s financial crisis is over, however as protests rock have rocked Bulgaria and forced the government to resign one might wonder if the worst road lies ahead. Bulgaria is generally considered the poorest member of the European Union and while the country demonstrated wiser financial sense that its Southern European counterparts its finances have been in poor shape since the 2009 financial crisis.

Genoveva Tisheva. (Photo: EWLA)

“The Bulgarian government continues the trends of sacrificing social and economic rights of the citizens with the justification of economic and financial stability, thus continuing to sustain the phenomenon of ‘stability in poverty’,” warned last week the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF, member of Social Watch since 1999) in its report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Commission on Status of Women
opens its current session.
(UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

Bulgarian government lacks of bodies in charge of regulating and monitoring gender equality, warned this month the civil society delegation to the 52nd Session of the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The NGOs were represented by the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (focal point of Social Watch) and the Gender Alternatives Foundation, with the support of the Alliance for Protection against Domestic Violence.

In terms of gender equity Bulgaria places itself above the European average and above all of its neighbours.

This is made apparent by the publication of the Gender Equity Index (GEI) 2012, published by Social Watch on the eve of Women’s International Day, March 8.

Environmental issues were extremely important in the country’s struggle for democracy. Now, after years of increasing apathy, more and more people are becoming involved in environmental issues. The introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the market and several flaws in the implementation of the NATURA 2000 program for conservation of natural areas have become two of the biggest challenges facing the country. Implementing sustainable development will require that the Government safeguard the environment while meeting the country’s energy and infrastructure needs.
It has not yet been possible to evaluate the impact of the world economic crisis on progress in education and employment in Bulgaria or on how much progress has been made towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, it is clear that now that the country is in the process of establishing full membership of the European Union, some development objectives are still a long way off. In the past it was a recipient of aid and now it is a donor, but it has fallen far short of the target set for Official Development Aid (ODA) in 2010. There are no clear mechanisms or procedures for awarding aid to other countries. Cooperation and communication among the actors involved has to be strengthened, the gender dimension has to be included in the aid programs and people’s awareness must be raised.

This month´s “Spotlight On…” column highlights the work of Social Watch Bulgaria, a dynamic national coalition that is helping to spread the Social Watch message of gender equality and social rights for all among the ex-Soviet states in the Eastern and Central European region.

Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union, has been enjoying some economic benefits from joining the EU. However, Government assurances that the economy is solid notwithstanding, investment and exports are dropping and the GDP will soon contract. Government measures to mitigate the impact of the global crisis will probably not be sufficient. NGOs are demanding that both employers and the Government adopt emergency measures to rein in inflation, agree to wage settlements that increase real income and assess the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of society.
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