EU finally ratifies Istanbul Convention – now protect women at work

After a delay of six years, the European Council has today finally cleared the way for EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention for action on violence against women.

The Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention was launched in 2011 and is the world’s first joint binding effort to fight and prevent violence against women.

The process of EU accession began in 2015 but has been blocked in the Council since 2017. Six EU member states have still not ratified the convention: Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia.

The ETUC is now calling on the Council to remove all hurdles to member states’ ratification of ILO Convention 190 on the elimination of violence against women in the world of work.

Responding to the development, ETUC Confederal Secretary Isabelle Schömann said:

“This is a good day for women and girls in Europe and an important step towards ending gender-based violence.

“The EU’s accession to the convention began in 2015, when the EU’s own data showed a third of women had experienced physical and sexual violence, while more than half had suffered sexual harassment.

“With violence and harassment of women and girls so widespread, it was irresponsible of the Council to have blocked ratification of the Istanbul Convention for so many years. 

“EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention is long overdue and, now the deadlock at EU level has been broken, the six member states which have not ratified the convention at national level must do so as a matter of urgency.

“It’s also important this momentum is now harnessed to ensure that all EU Member states ratify ILO Convention 190 on the elimination of violence against women in the world of work.

“The ETUC will continue working on a strong EU directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence that recognises domestic violence as workplace issue and recognizes the role of  trade unions play in supporting victims and survivors through collective bargaining agreements and workplace policies.”


The Council is now formally sending a letter to European Parliament asking for their consent to the decision on EU accession. Once the European Parliament has given its consent, the Council will have the final vote in the Justice and Home Affairs Council in June.