Gender equality is the EU priority which is least well covered across different programmes in the bloc’s budget, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) concluded in a new report published on Monday (14 November).
The auditors checked how the EU Commission incorporated the bloc’s overarching goals, such as fighting climate change, digital transition, biodiversity preservation, sustainable development, and gender equality, in its spending programmes.
It was the first time auditors had investigated such goals as a whole, and found major differences in how these priorities were incorporated into the current 2021-2027 budget.
While the commission reported that it had fully incorporated the key priorities into its budget programmes, the auditors found that there are, in fact, “significant differences” between climate and biodiversity, compared with gender equality.
The auditors also found the EU executive had provided overly-positive conclusions on the progress made towards “mainstreaming” targets.
Mainstreaming certain goals means systematically incorporating a specific issue and target into the planning, execution and evaluation of policies.
The auditors have found that climate and biodiversity priorities were mostly incorporated, while the UN’s sustainable development goals, and the digital transformation targets, have been partially included.
Gender, on the other hand, had been incorporated to a much lesser extent, the Luxembourg-based ECA said.
Auditors found that EU legislation setting up a spending programme included the priorities, but that gender was actually integrated in fewer-than-half of the programmes under scrutiny.
The report found only 11 of 47 programmes declared amounts which are contributing to gender equality, totalling €12bn, or five percent of commitments (essentially money pledged but not yet paid) by the end of 2021.
The commission has only just started to track spending affecting gender equality, as there was no common system for tracking funds allocated and used on gender equality under the previous, 2014-2020, EU budget.
There is no overall target for spending related to the priorities of gender, digital or sustainable development goals in the long-term EU budget, the new report said.
The auditors recommended the commission refine the methodology for tracking “gender expenditure”, and incorporate gender equality into future legislative proposals of programmes.
In an earlier, 2021 report, the ECA had already found that the commission paid little attention to gender analysis of EU policies and programmes.
Also, the commission made little information available on the EU budget’s overall impact on gender equality in programme statements, or the commission’s performance report on the EU budget.
The auditors also criticised the commission for not being accurate, and overestimating when it comes to tracking EU spending in terms of climate and biodiversity goals.
“The commission should better incorporate the EU’s overarching policy priorities into its performance framework, in particular for gender equality, digital transition and the sustainable development goals,” one of the auditors, responsible for the report, François-Roger Cazala, said.
The auditors checked a selection of 11 programmes that cover 90 percent of payments made up to the end of 2021.