VILNIUS - Lithuania will soon welcome the first European Union Institution for Gender Equlity, EU leaders decided in Brussels on Dec. 1. The European Institute for Gender Equality will open its doors in Vilnius next year, working to gather data on gender-related issues and policies across Europe, as well as organize seminars and conferences on pivotal topics. The organization will include some 15 employees, according to the EU.
EU Social Policy Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said the creation of the institute would be "an important step forward" in tackling cases of discrimination between men and women.
"We wanted to send out a clear political message that we think gender equality is extremely important at the European, national and local level," the commissioner stressed.
Lithuania's social security minister also praised the decision. "This is one of Lithuania's most important achievements since it joined the EU," Vilija Blinkeviciute said in a statement.
"The institute's establishment in Lithuania is a very important step in the creation of our country's image, and the best evaluation of Lithuania's achievements in gender equality," she added. "It will bring our society closer to the EU."
Blinkeviciute stressed that it was not only the institute's budget 's 52.5 million euros over seven years - which would benefit Lithuania, but the attention the facility brings as well.
"We shall regularly host meetings, conferences, and training events so that institute employees from across the EU will come to Lithuania," she said, noting that all this would contribute to the Baltic state's economy.
Lithuania will become the second new EU member to host one of the bloc's institutions. The first was Poland, which last year opened Frontex, the EU agency for external borders management.
Slovenia and Slovakia were also bidding for the right to host the new gender institute.
Slovakia suggested that the honor was awarded to Lithuania due to political pressure from the Nordic countries.
"The Finnish presidency put pressure on us to back down days before the meeting, as Lithuania's project was clearly best and had gathered the most support," the EU Observer quoted Slovak Social Affairs Minister Viera Tomanova as saying after the meeting in Brussels.