Europe’s depiction of gender equality in Turkey has not changed in five years, said the head of a prominent women’s NGO that hosted chief EU negotiator Egemen Bağış at a breakfast meeting on Tuesday.

According to Gülseren Onanç, head of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, or KAGİDER, the European Union, which is expected to release a report Wednesday on Turkey’s progress in its accession to the 27-nation bloc, will establish the fact that public institutions are now aware of the importance of having NGOs participate in the negotiation process. Yet the progress report also says there is still a problem of confidence problem and a lack of dialogue between state institutions and civil society.

According to a rough draft obtained by KAGİDER, the report said the legal framework for gender equality has been successfully established yet more efforts are needed to implement the legal amendments in everyday life.

The ratio of women participation in the labor force stands at 24 percent, far below the EU average of 57 percent, said Onanç, adding that women’s access to education is still below EU standards and that women’s participation in politics is still limited. Onanç also said the problem of honor killings will continue to be a point of criticism in the progress report.

“The EU has been drawing the same picture for the past four, five years,” Onanç said. “We are unable to bring about change in this situation.”

She said Turkey could not finish its membership negotiations unless the problems regarding gender inequality are overcome.

“We need an integrated policy. The problems are not just limited to one area, to education or politics. We need to endorse an approach that should tackle the problems in all areas,” she said, adding that Turkey also needs an action plan or a road map in order to achieve progress. “Maybe the government needs to initiate a women’s opening similar to the Kurdish opening,” she said, referring to the government's initiative to solve the Kurdish issue.

Onanç also drew attention to the financial side of the problem.

“Policies cannot be efficiently implemented unless they are supported by budgets,” she said, emphasizing that the ministry responsible for women’s issues receives less than 1 percent of the state budget. Onanç also said the ministry should have increased authority.

“The ministry responsible for women’s issues does not even have a department on EU affairs,” she said. “We deal with the European Union Secretariat General when it comes to women and the EU.”

Taking the floor after Onanç, Bağış said that while she presented the empty half of the bottle, he would talk about the half-full part.

As half of the population or more consists of women, the women’s empowerment is not only critical for the EU process but for the general development of Turkish society, Bağış said in his introductory remarks.

He said a commission on equal opportunities was established in Parliament and that was given the authority to change legislation. He recalled that even the commission in the EU that is tasked with overseeing legal amendments does not have that authority.

While Bağış accepted that the participation of women to politics was limited, he also said this problem also stemmed from the women themselves.

“Women also need to show more interest to politics and they need to be vigilant and insistent. We sometimes have difficulty finding women candidates,” he said, triggering a debate among the participants, who objected by saying it is not easy to gain prominence in man-dominated politics.