Poland and Hungary push against “gender equality” at EU social summit
BRUSSELS, May 7 (Reuters) – Lobbying from Poland and Hungary has led to the removal of the phrase ‘gender equality’ from a draft declaration on promoting social cohesion to be published by the EU Friday, according to diplomats and documents seen by Reuters.
The ruling Polish nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS) and its Eurosceptic ally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, promote what they call traditional social values at home and have repeatedly clashed with their more liberal Western peers over the rights of women, homosexuals and migrants.
The two countries opposed the direct mention of “gender equality” in the draft prepared for discussion by the 27 national leaders of the bloc, who meet in the Portuguese city of Porto on Friday and Saturday.
While an earlier draft said the bloc would “promote gender equality,” the latest version seen by Reuters – which could potentially be rephrased – eschews the phrase and reads: “We will step up our efforts to fight against discrimination and actively work to close the gender gap. … and promote equality.
European Union diplomats said Warsaw and Budapest had sought looser language. Both governments have sought to promote Catholic and conservative social values in campaigns that have gone hand in hand with increasing state control over the media, courts and academics.
There was no immediate response to requests for comment from Polish and Hungarian missions to the EU.
Leaders will commit to an inclusive recovery from the bloc’s record recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 700,000 people in Europe, closed businesses and travel, and confined millions to their homes for more than ‘a year.
“Our commitment to unity and solidarity also means guaranteeing equal opportunities for all and that no one is left behind,” said the leaders, referring to the green and digital reforms planned by the bloc, as well as ‘with an emphasis on education and training.
“… The priority will be to move from protection to job creation and improving the quality of employment”, they say, according to the latest draft, which also welcomes a proposal to look at- beyond GDP readings to measure economic and social progress.
The leaders are due to assemble in Porto from 12:00 GMT.
Twenty-four will attend in person, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and two other attendees for discussions that will also attempt to overcome divisions over patent waivers for COVID-19 vaccines and the EU’s strained ties with Russia. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by John Stonestreet)