Europeanising Gender Mainstreaming: Constraints and Opportunities in the Multilevel Euro-polity

Research paper by Ulrike Liebert

Indexed on: 01 Oct '02Published on: 01 Oct '02Published in: Feminist Legal Studies


What are the conditions for empowering `gender mainstreaming' as a new policy frame beyond the supranational level in member states and regions of the European Union? This paper is premised on the following assumptions: that mainstreaming will reduce gender disparities in Europe only if it takes root at all levels of decision-making, but that some national gender regimes can be expected to resist mainstreaming more than others, especially because it does not command `hard' legal tools. The puzzle to be examined is how mainstreaming can become effective across the European multilevel polity. It is argued that vis-à-visthe resistance of domestic gender regimes, the Europeanisation of equal treatment norms in national, regional and local contexts over the past decades has generated a variety of mechanisms for the cross-border diffusion of new policy ideas that can help to promote mainstreaming. Drawing on comparative Europeanisation research, this argument is developed in three steps. First, the past performance of member states in the implementation of E.U. gender directives is explored, to identify patterns and dynamics and classify leaders and laggards. Second, current mainstreaming experiences in one of the most conspicuous laggard states – Germany – are examined closely. Finally, as a means of explaining the rather intense engagement of German federal and regional governments with mainstreaming, two factors are highlighted: elite learning, and new governance instruments developed by the E.U. Notwithstanding the steps taken to promote mainstreaming, the prospects for further institutionalization within the E.U. appear contingent on the outcome of the Convention on the Future of the Union and the Intergovernmental Conference planned for 2004, since the invigorating of the subsidiarity principle and the division of competences across the multilevel polity are key issues of debate.