Women’s Rights Committee joins chorus of criticism of gender imbalance on CoFoE Board

At present, only one member of the European Parliament’s seven representatives on the Conference on the Future of Europe’s all-powerful Executive Board is a woman.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

30 Mar 2021

The lack of gender balance on the Executive Board has provoked a response from Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) Committee, which has now written a letter voicing their concern to Parliament’s President David Sassoli and all group leaders.

The MEPs want a “guarantee that gender is taken into account through a gender-balanced composition” of the Conference Executive Board.

The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), due to start in May, will look at various ways of reforming the EU. The idea is that civil society will play a key role.

The letter is signed by Evelyn Regner, chair of the FEMM Committee, and committee members Frances Fitzgerald, Maria Noichl, Samira Rafaela, Alice Kuhnke, Eugenia Rodríguez Palop and Irène Tolleret.

It was sent to Sassoli, EPP group leader Manfred Weber, Socialist leader Iratxe García Pérez, Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș, Greens/EFA leaders Philippe Lamberts and Ska Keller and other group leaders.

The letter, seen by this website, notes that the continuing gender dispute comes in the wake of the recent International Women’s Day “when we were reminded that women have been most affected by the pandemic and the current economic crisis.”

The letter goes on, “Women’s rights are under pressure in Europe and women are still under-represented in decision making positions. On International Women's Day, an important number of EU officials and representatives from a broad political spectrum agreed that we need to push our efforts towards building a gender equal society. However, words are not enough.”

“We know that due to the fact that often the majority of leadership positions are held by men, both in this Parliament and in Parliaments and other settings around the world, coordination in compiling boards such as these is imperative” FEMM Committee letter to David Sassoli and group leaders

The Committee members, in the letter, say that the Conference is “an opportunity to shape a stronger, better and more equal Europe.”

They note that a recent joint declaration, signed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and other EU leaders, included a commitment to ensure “a gender-balanced governance structure among all its component parts” of the Conference.

On March 18, the Conference of Presidents endorsed the list of Parliament’s representatives for the Executive Board of the Conference but, on this list of seven people, only one is a woman - Iratxe García Pérez.

The letter says, “We regret this decision which does not respect the idea to have a gender-balanced delegation and we express our concern over the signal we are sending to the next generations of Europeans.”

“Let’s not miss the tremendous chance given by the Conference on the Future of Europe to work our way through a gender-equal society and to improve women’s rights.”

“We know that due to the fact that often the majority of leadership positions are held by men, both in this Parliament and in Parliaments and other settings around the world, coordination in compiling boards such as these is imperative.”

The Committee said that cooperation in formulating executive boards “such as this one for the Conference from all groups will be essential if we are to avoid similar circumstances recurring.”

“We regret this decision which does not respect the idea to have a gender-balanced delegation and we express our concern over the signal we are sending to the next generations of Europeans”

FEMM Committee letter to David Sassoli and group leaders

“Active consideration of gender balance at earlier stages in formulating such bodies will therefore be crucial.”

The MEPs ask Sassoli and group leaders “to guarantee that gender is taken into account through a gender-balanced composition of the executive board, as was outlined in the joint declaration, in its overall representation, especially for the representatives chosen for the conference plenary by means of gender-balanced group delegations, and also in terms of experts, speakers and citizens involved as well as through the content of the discussions.”

They go on, “We believe this is the only way we can ensure that gender equality will not be left behind during this important moment of our democracy.”

They members also ask Sassoli in particular “to address and coordinate this issue as well with the respective Presidents of the European Commission and Council in order to ensure that when the Conference effectively starts its work, it will be gender balanced on all levels, from all European institutions, national parliaments, experts, speakers and civil society.”

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