Gendered structures and practices of European security:the case of the EU

Gender equality is a foundational myth of the EU (MacRae, 2010). Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome (1957) introduces the principle that ‘men and women should receive equal pay for equal work’. It is important to note here that the inclusion of this statement was not as a result of feminist demands, but to ensure equal competition in the market and mollify the French government, which had just introduced equal pay legislation (Hoskyns, 1996, p. 56).

Nevertheless, repeated rhetorical statements by the EU and EU officials seek to reinforce the notion that gender is part of the ‘European Union's “DNA”’ (European Commission, 2014). In reality, the evidence to support such a claim is much more mixed, and calls for its reconsideration. Despite the EU’s engagement with WPS, as well as the creation of the position of Principle Gender Adviser within the European External Action Service (EEAS), addressing gender inequalities remains marginal to the institution.

The EU is underpinned by neoliberal values and it is an economic focus that has underpinned the institution’s engagement with the issue of gender equality. This has acted as a constraint on internal policy making in this domain and has also led to a liberal understanding of equality devoid of the ability to conceptualise difference (Woodward and van der Vleuten, 2014, p. 69). For example, the European Neighbourhood Policy, the instrument through which the EU engages with its southern and eastern neighbours to promote stabilisation and security, focuses predominately on improving women’s access to employment, reinforcing the argument that the EU’s rationale for pursuing gender equality is an economic one (David and Guerrina, 2013, p. 60). A cross-cutting feature is that gender is understood in a particular manner which draws heavily on gender stereotypes and binaries. Women are understood within a neoliberal framework as subjects responsible for their own emancipation but also as a resource for military action in relation to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) (Muehlenhoffi 2017, p. 156). CSDP, as an intergovernmental area reliant on member states to fill positions, has reproduced ‘dominant norms and forms’ in the shape of masculine bodies (Kronsell, 2015, p. 7). Further, the women mentioned in CSDP texts are women located outside of the EU and this reinforces the notion of a ‘vulnerable other feminity’ in places of conflict and the EU’s role as a masculinist protector (Kronsell, 2016, p. 112).

The creation of the EEAS with the Treaty of Lisbon presented an opportunity to address gender inequalities within EU external relations, and security and defence specifically. The EEAS was formerly launched in 2011. As a new institution, it lacked institutional memory and, initially, an esprit de corps, the latter opening the possibility for the introduction of new agendas, such as WPS (Guerrina et al., 2018a, p. 1043). The creation of the EEAS was a result of time-consuming negotiations about composition, budget, organisation and accountability (Juncos and Pomorska, 2013). It involved the transfer of staff from the Commission and Secretariat General, as well as newly seconded staff from member states (see Chapter 6). The newly created Staff Regulations put an emphasis on meritocracy, but there was also a concern that adequate geographical and gender balance be ensured (Juncos and Pomorska, 2013, p. 1335). In reality, this has yet to be realised, with the notable exception of the position of High Representative / Vice-President, a position which has been held by two women, Baroness Catherine Ashton and the current incumbent, Federica Mogherini. There remain significant institutional barriers to the representation of women within the EEAS. For example, while Mogherini appointed women to positions surrounding the High Representative (intentionally or not), reinforcing the visibility of women in the EEAS, EU member states did not reciprocate (Novotna, 2017, p. 179). Indeed, the institutional structure of the EEAS, specifically Mogherini’s over-reliance on EU member states to fill key positions, has led to a missed opportunity to create an institution fulfilling the EU’s stated commitment to gender equality.

Another opportunity missed to push for the mainstreaming of gender within the EEAS came with the creation of the position of Principle Gender Adviser. On the one hand, the creation of such a position should be welcomed as a starting point for overseeing the integration of gender and WPS concerns into the EEAS, a key part of the position’s mandate. Yet, the institutional location of the position means the incumbent, Ambassador Mara Marinaki, despite being an outspoken advocate of gender issues (Bindi, 2015, p. 98), lacks the seniority to push for change (Guerrina and Wright, 2016, p. 312). Marinaki does not report directly to the High Representative and is positioned as a support service for the Secretary General, Helga Schmidt. This falls short of the recommendation of a UN Women report on the implementation of WPS that regional organisations appoint a high-level special representative on WPS to replicate the best practice identified at NATO and the African Union (Coomaraswamy, 2015; Guerrina et al., 2018a, p. 1046).

The EU’s Engagement with WPS

Given the EU’s stated commitment to gender equality, we could expect that the EU would have been at the forefront of engagement with WPS. Yet, it was not. The EU’s engagement with WPS has also assigned specific values to the agenda. If WPS is to be understood as more than the sum of the Security Council Resolutions but shaped by the actors engaging with it, then we need to examine the EU as a site for assigning meaning to WPS. In seeking to implement WPS, the EU interprets the agenda in line with its own foundational values. This both provides both new meaning for WPS and serves to reproduce the EU’s own gender order (Guerrina and Wright, 2016, p. 294). The key policies concerned specifically with WPS are the Comprehensive approach to the EU implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security and the Implementation ofUNSCR 1325 as reinforced by UNSCR1820 in the context ofESDP, both adopted in 2008. Neither of these policies is referred to in the EU’s Gender Action Plan adopted in 2015, which makes only two references to WPS more broadly (European Commission, 2015). This indicates that WPS is not the only means through which the EU engages with gender issues, but given the applicability of WPS to external relations also represents a significant silence on a salient global gender norm.

In order to understand the particular values placed on WPS by the EU, it is necessary to consider how the EU’s interaction and engagement externally has shaped this at an institutional level. The notion that the EU primarily exports gender norms is flawed. Rather, gender equality norms are also imported through engagement and interactions with a range of international actors (Woodward and van der Vleuten, 2014, p. 86). WPS is a case in point here. The EU’s engagement with WPS has provided an integral role for third parties in both promoting and implementing the WPS agenda. However, rather than providing a platform for deepening existing strategic partnerships, and, thus, demonstrating a commitment to further developing the WPS agenda, the EU has used WPS instrumentally as a means to forge new and specific strategic partnerships with other regional and international organisations (Haastrup, 2017, p. 208). There are some noticeable contradictions in the EU’s approach to mainstreaming WPS which belie its commitment to supporting gender equality in peace andsecurity more broadly. On the one hand the EU has prioritised co-operation with both international and regional organisations in order to keep WPS high on the international agenda as evidenced by the EU’s relations with the Africa Union which have prominently featured WPS (Haastrup, 2017, p. 208). Yet, in its strategic partnerships with third states, gender is barely visible. For example, the EU strategic partnership with South Africa makes just one reference to gender (Haastrup, 2017, p. 208). Thus, we see that, through interaction with selected third parties, the EU comes to value WPS specifically as of instrumental value.

The instrumentalisation of WPS in EU partnerships speaks to the colonial logics underpinning European security. A case in point here is the European Security Strategy, in which the EU is represented through a gendered and colonial lens as a ‘benevolent (masculine), robust, ethical, civilising/normative power’ in contrast to those states beyond Europe and its partners (Stem, 2011, p. 36). This could contribute to explaining why it is that the EU has focused on WPS as an issue relevant to new partnerships, rather than as a central concern for existing partnerships. In this light, WPS can be seen as part of the EU’s civilising mission and WPS a tool to promote the benefits of European values. Deiana and McDonagh’s (2018, p. 44) interviews with gender advisers within the EEAS confirm these findings. They found WPS was valued either as something connected to another institution, primarily the UN, or as something they can pick and choose when to apply, rather than mainstreaming throughout their work. This aids an understanding of the specific way in which the EU has understood the WPS agenda within a neoliberal framework (Guerrina and Wright, 2016; Muehlenhoff, 2017).

Gender stereotypes also underpin the EU’s engagement with WPS, with gender framed as an individual social attribute and something groups negotiate (Muehlenhoff, 2017, p. 3). In so doing, EU engagement with WPS lacks consideration of how gender power hierarchies privilege masculinities over femininities and the ways in which these structures serve to both produce and entrench gendered inequalities (Deiana and McDonagh, 2018, p. 38). This has been perpetuated by the way in which WPS has been incorporated into CSDP, which has led to the narrowing of its scope to issues concerning gender balance in peacekeeping and sexual and gender based violence in conflict (Deiana and McDonagh, 2018, p. 37). The specific and limited mandate of CSDP has also led to the incorporation of WPS as a ‘security tool’, rather than a wider, all-encompassing, approach, seeking broader transformation (Deiana and McDonagh, 2018, p. 42). Specifically, engagement with WPS has focused instrumentally on increasing operational effectiveness (Guerrina et al., 2018a). The focus on gender, and women, as a tool for military action instrumentalises women’s bodies. It rests on a premise that women embody something ‘different’ from men. This expectation, in turn, further genders CSDP, normalising the existing majority (men) and constructing them as a ‘homogenous and naturally associated’ part of the institution (Kronsell, 2012).

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