The European Union Commission which has been promoting gender equality from the start (Rome treaty) has taken a further step in its revised treaty signed in Amsterdam in 1999. It included provisions to oblige Member States to eliminate inequality and promote equality between women and men in all areas of activity.
Besides the rhetoric, visible signs of this commitment in the seafood business environment have emerged recently. The first study tackling the participation of women in the industry dates back to 2002 (MacAlister Elliott and Partners, 2001). That year, the 17th issue of its periodical publication “Fishing in Europe” was entitled: “Women in fisheries: an unnoticed role” and the editorial starts with a vibrant “The European Commission acknowledges women’s role in fisheries. Despite their presence at all levels and in all areas of the sector, the role of women in European fisheries has until recently remained largely unnoticed.” European institutions including the Commission and the Parliament now strongly encourage national governments to be more “gender sensitive” in their policies. One effective means of persuasion, which was introduced a year ago, is the introduction of gender issues as selection criteria in the allocation of subsidies.
In 2011, the EU Commission suggested a major reform for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, to be implemented on 1 January 2014 and the setting up of the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to help fishermen and the coastal communities to face the needed transition. The EMFF fund of 6.4 billion euros is to be distributed during the period 2014–2020. The amount is far from negligible and each member state will try to meet the requirements, which include commitment to gender equality. Article 7 expresses the integration of the gender mainstreaming strategy. It states “The Member States and the Commission shall ensure that equality between men and women and the integration of gender perspectives are taken into account and promoted throughout the preparation and implementation, in relation to monitoring, reporting and evaluation of programmes (…) Member States shall also carry out gender analyses where appropriate.” In addition two measures (Articles 29b and 50c) in the EMFF focus specifically on promoting equal opportunities between men and women. Article 97 and Article 113 both also focus on promoting equality between men and women through the management and control systems of the operational programme instead of through grants. This leaves each member state to draw up an operational programme (OP), saying how the Member State intends to spend the money and how it intends to apply a gender equality approach. The OP will be sent to the EU Commission some time in 2015, and as we are summing up the information, the Republic of Latvia is the only country to have presented its specific requests to the EU32. Once the Commission approves this programme, it is up to the national authorities to decide which projects will be funded.