EU ratifies Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on 28 June 2023

The European Union (EU) has come a long way to finally ratify the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention. The EU is the supranational political and economic union of the 27 member states, located in Europe.

The EU’s accession to the Convention is a boost for EU efforts to realize equality between women and men. It is a huge opportunity to implement the measures of the Convention in all EU countries because it puts more pressure on the states to implement it fully and to adapt their national law accordingly. It also means that EU member states must fight disinformation about the Convention. The need for action appears both in EU member states that have ratified the Convention individually and in those that have not.

Potential benefits would be to achieve better data collection and awareness raising, to create a more coherent legal framework on criminalizing different forms of violence against women, to improve victim support and protection and to address the gender-based violence dimension in matters of asylum and migration.

The road to ratification:  Six years after the EU signed the Convention (13 June 2917) , it had still not ratified it because of the refusal of a few EU member states (Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia). In EU-Law many decisions can only be taken by unanimity. However, in October 2021 the EU Court of Justice paved the way by stating that the EU can ratify the Istanbul Convention without having the agreement of all member states.

In May 2023 the European Parliament voted with a high majority of 469 MEPs for the Istanbul Convention and its ratification in EU-Law.  

On 28 June 2023 the EU deposited the instrument of approval of the Istanbul Convention with the Council of Europe. The Convention will enter into force as regards the European Union on 1st October 2023. The EU becomes thus the 38th Party of the Convention.

However, CoE and EU never get tired to stress that the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention does not exempt member states from ratifying it themselves.

Nevertheless the EU’s accession comes at a time when the backlash against women’s rights and gender equality is ever increasing sending a strong note that the EU is stepping up and goes from words to action to stop violence against women and to tackle all forms of discrimination based on gender. The accession to the Istanbul Convention will lead to increased cooperation with the CoE on issues in these fields.