Italy urged to assume ‘natural mediator’ role

Barbara Matera calls on Italy to seize the ‘unmissable’ opportunity presented by the presidency.

By Barbara Matera

29 Jul 2014

The Italian presidency of the council of the European Union represents an unmissable chance for our country. It is an incredible opportunity to sign the re-launch of the European project, on the basis of new prerequisites and perspectives. This is anything but rhetoric. This moment is decisive. The European Union is slowly recovering from the economic and financial crisis. A conscientious management of the presidency could be preparation for a definitive reaffirmation of European strength.

A good administration of this prestigious mandate could also translate into a chance to demonstrate that, beyond categorisations and stereotypes, Italians are actually able to combine pragmatism and sensitivity, which are necessary to the pursuit, and achievement, of sustainable targets. It is evident that enthusiasm needs to coincide with good practices and virtuous actions. But the prerequisites are good. The Italian presidency provided sharable guidelines for launching a long and sustainable recovery of the European Union.

“The Italian presidency would leave an indelible sign of its effectiveness if it worked to reopen negotiations on the so-called maternity leave directive”

As a vice-president of parliament’s committee on women’s rights and gender equality, I will take particular care to evaluate what is achieved by the Italian presidency in the framework of the fight for the affirmation of women’s rights in European countries. It is reassuring to learn that one of the main goals of the presidency in this specific field is that of assessing the results reached by the ‘platform for action’, a project launched on the occasion of the world conference on women held in Beijing in 1995. A careful estimation of the goals achieved in Europe, through the implementation of the 12 objectives foreseen by the platform – which is an actual agenda for the pursuit of the empowerment of women – would really help in understanding to what extent European women have been given a concrete chance to improve their position in all spheres of public and private life. It is evident that this would not be just an academic exercise. In fact, such work will help to identify all our weaknesses in dealing with the gender issue. This analysis could be a starting point for the definition of other recommendations and targets, necessary to the pursuit of new actions aimed at promoting women’s rights and gender equality within our borders.

Likewise, the willingness to give new birth to negotiations on the directive on improvement of gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges is significant. The proposal of the directive, which significantly sustains a major participation of women in the economic life of our member states, was voted on by the European parliament last November, but it still needs to be approved by the council.

The Italian presidency would leave an indelible sign of its effectiveness if it worked to reopen negotiations on the so-called maternity leave directive. Since the European commission has just communicated its willingness to suspend the legislative procedure aimed at the approval of this directive (already voted on by parliament in October 2010 but still stuck in council, due to member states’ reticence), Italian mobilisation on the dossier could be preparatory to the reopening of a fruitful debate on a law which, if approved, would guarantee protection to pregnant women and to young mothers, who are often victims of discrimination by their employers.

It is desirable that Italy not miss the chance to sensitise other EU member states about the necessity to discuss matters. The state which runs the presidency of the European Union should, after all, be a natural mediator.

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