Press Release: UN Women and the European Union launch a new initiative to focus on ending violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey


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UN Women and the EU will aim to reform policies in line with international standards, transfrom dicriminatory social norms and empower women and girls subjected to violence.

(Brussels, 10 July) – The European Union (EU) and UN Women today launched a three-year regional initiative to end discrimination and violence against women in six Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) and Turkey. The Programme “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds” is one more effort within the framework of the EU Year to End Violence against Women, and the EU-UN Women partnership to empower and protect the rights of women and girls.

Taking place at the premises of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the event brought together EU and UN representatives, governments and civil society from the Western Balkans and Turkey as well as representatives from the Council of Europe, European Institute for Gender Equality and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to discuss the way forward for eliminating discrimination and violence against women and girls.

“In the European Union year to end violence against women, the European Commission is pleased to partner with UN Women to step up efforts to end violence against women in Western Balkan countries and Turkey. We will work together to support national governments and civil society, to accelerate protection, prevention and response to violence against women,” said Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans at the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission.

“The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is our anchor for this important initiative. Our goal is to work with governments and civil society in the region to implement legislation and policies in full compliance with the Convention,” said Alia El-Yassir, UN Women acting Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.

Ambassador Kaja Tael, Estonian Permanent Representative to the EU said that violence against women has to be addressed at all levels from local authorities to national governments and international organisations and with the participation of the civil society and women’s organisations. “The promotion of the so-called culture of noticing is the key as in many countries the violence against women is seriously underreported” she said. Tael welcomed the EU’s engagement on the issue with Western Balkan countries and Turkey and very timely launch of joint programme of the European Commission and UN Women.

Estonia currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU and is committed to prevent and reduce violence against women, including under UN Women’s “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” initiative.

The 3-year EU-UN Women programme, financed by the European Commission to the tune of 5 million euros, builds on the momentum created by the Istanbul Convention. It is also anchored in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and is in alignment with European Union accession standards and the Sustainable Development Goals. The programme will, in particular, support governments and women’s organizations in Western Balkans and Turkey in enhancing their efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women, and advancing the implementation of the Istanbul Convention.  

More information and regular updates on the programme can be found on the website:

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

About the European Union:

The European Union is made up of 28 Member States who have decided to gradually link together their know-how, resources and destinies. Together, during a period of enlargement of 50 years, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedoms.

The European Union is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders. Estonia holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in the second half of 2017. For more information, please visit:

About UN Women:

UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. The UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, which oversees the work of 14 countries, was established in Istanbul in 2014. For more information, please visit