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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

Gender politics and feminist mobilisation in the expanding EU

Published: 21 July 2008 Origin:  Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology

Dr Silke Roth recently conducted research concerning the impact of European Union (EU) enlargement on gender politics and feminist mobilisation.

The study focused on pre- and post-accession experiences and drew particularly on developments in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, which are among the most economically developed new EU member states.

The study was based on the evaluation of documents, observations at conferences, and thirteen interviews with experts who work in, or are familiar with, non-governmental organisations and networks in Central and Eastern Europe.

The research findings suggested that EU accession has been a highly ambivalent and contradictory process both for women’s mobilisation and networking, and the introduction of gender equality policies in the new member states. While EU membership gave women’s NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe better access to EU institutions and EU funding, it also resulted in a loss of financial support from previous donors. Some, in general bigger, organisations benefited from these changes, while smaller groups now struggle.

Furthermore, although accession offered women’s movements political opportunities to put pressure on their governments, the adaptation to EU regulations is characterised by top-down reforms and the unequal compliance of national governments.

One lesson to be learnt from the study is that to take advantage of the EU’s potential for strengthening gender equality and to avoid a backlash on sexuality, reproductive rights, and family policies, women’s NGOs, networks, and movements from the old and the new member states need to collaborate.

Dr Roth’s research has led to the following related publications:

  • Roth, Silke (2007): Sisterhood and Solidarity? Women’s Organizations in the Expanded European Union. Social Politics, vol. 14 (4), 460-487.
  • Roth, Silke (ed.) (2008/forthcoming): Gender Politics in the Expanding European Union. Mobilization, Inclusion, Exclusion. Oxford/New York: Berghahn Books.

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