Research objectives

WP 4 – Justice, Democracy and Gender


WP 4 studies a number of questions pertaining to gender equality that are raised by the multilevel institutional make-up of Europe.
  • What level(s) of governance is (are) the most relevant for the rectification of injustice and elimination of gender inequality? Are there significant differences in gender equality in the various regions of Europe?
  • Recent research has shown that many member states still resist gender equality – in practice if not formally. Is there a systematic East-West or South-North bias?
  • What is the relation between gender equality and the democratisation processes in the new member states and candidate countries?


WP 4 starts from the recognition that gender equality is an essential component of a just and democratic society. Its core objective is three-fold: (i) to explore the status of gender equality within the enlarged EU; (ii) to analyse what kind of gender policies can be justified with regard to the three RECON models; what policies do the different models give scope for, and for what reasons; and (iii) to arrive at specific recommendations for how gender equality can best be fostered within Europe.

WP 4 has a normative and an empirical component. The examination of the status of gender equality in Europe requires first a clarification of how best to conceive gender equality in normative terms. WP 4 undertakes to establish the assessment standards for gender equality in relation to alternative notions of justice. The three models of reconstituting democracy in Europe offer a set of distinctly different standards for evaluating gender equality, that is, with regard to justice as a matter of mutual advantage, as a matter of formal legal equality, and as a matter of mutual recognition. From the application of the RECON models to contemporary European reality we can also establish a set of recommendations for how best to promote gender equality within an enlarged EU.

With regard to the empirical component WP 4 proceeds with a policy analysis of the EU’s approach to gender equality, its institutional arrangements and its main policy outcomes. It goes in detail in three critical gender policy areas: women’s representation in decision-making, the gender pay gap, and gender-based violence. Which model of equality is embodied in these policies at EU and national levels? WP 4 seeks to determine whether the dominant model(s) at EU level has transposed itself to the national arena, or if there are tensions between different conceptions (models) of equality in multi-level governance.

WP 4 also addresses the discourse around gender justice and gender equality in the EU by focusing on identity formation and civil society activism. In close cooperation with WP 5 – Civil Society and the Public Sphere, WP 4 examines the role of civil society, and in particular the existence of a robust civil society engaging with elites on gender equality in the new member states and the candidate countries. In applying the normative standards for the assessment of the observed policy outcomes and effects, along with the findings of the observed discourse, RECON is able to recommend what kind of gender equality policies the EU should pursue in order to sustain democracy at all levels.