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Equal opportunities and the Structural Funds

On the occasion of International Women's Day (8 March), the European Commission organized a conference on "The Structural Funds and equal opportunities between men and women". The aim of the conference, which took place in Brussels, Belgium, on 7-8 March 1996, was to assess th...
On the occasion of International Women's Day (8 March), the European Commission organized a conference on "The Structural Funds and equal opportunities between men and women". The aim of the conference, which took place in Brussels, Belgium, on 7-8 March 1996, was to assess the impact of the Structural Funds on equal opportunities and identify ways of increasing this impact.

Observance of the principle of equal opportunities was first introduced into the regulations covering the Structural Funds in 1993. Structural Funds operations are, however, still relatively modest in this field and efforts to mobilise the partners and, above all, the national and/or regional authorities responsible for devising and implementing the programming, must be continued and intensified.

For the 1994-1999 programming period, the promotion of equal opportunities is a priority running through all activities receiving Structural Funds assistance, with a determined effort being made to obtain greater coordination.

Combined operations by the ESF (European Social Fund), ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and EAGGF (European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund) help to carry out measures and provide facilities which make it possible for women to reconcile their working and family life better (creches, kindergartens, after-school activities, adaptation of transport in sparsely-populated areas, etc.).

The political impetus given to equal opportunities is also reflected in the Community initiatives (ADAPT, EMPLOYMENT, URBAN I, LEADER II, INTERREG II). In particular, the networks which initiatives such as NOW or LEADER have at their disposal constitute a prime means of exchanging practices and transferring experiences and methodologies.

Through the support given to these various measures and the strengthening of Community initiatives, the Funds facilitate the identification and dissemination of good practice and help to boost cooperation and integration under the new fourth Community programme on equal opportunities (1996-2000).

In his address to the conference, Mr. Padraig Flynn, Commissioner responsible for employment and social affairs, stressed that "there is a change in attitude on how to achieve equal opportunities. It is no longer valid to see equality exclusively as an issue for women. Equality is about women and men and the partnership between them". He also called upon the Member States to exploit the potential of the Structural Funds (over ECU 170 billion in the 1994-1999 period) "to make a genuine difference in the ability of the Union to promote equality of opportunity".

The conference was attended by three hundred participants including: representatives of national governments, regional and local authorities, members of national parliaments, social partners, non-governmental organizations and various experts in the field.
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