Wednesday

15th Jul 2020

MEPs' #MeToo pledge - only 12 EPP sign up

  • Antonio Tajani, the centre-right president of the European Parliament, is one of the few EPP members to have signed a pledge promising to fight sexism (Photo: European Parliament)

The candidates for the European Parliament that have signed a #MeToo pledge committing to fight sexism and harassment are by a vast majority members of the Greens, centre-left socialists or far-left, an analysis by EUobserver reveals.

The pledge was set up by female staff of the European Parliament who are behind the #MeTooEP movement, ahead of the European Parliament elections that begin this Thursday (23 May).

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It said that signatories promise that if elected as MEP, they would "actively combat, prevent and denounce sexism and sexual harassment and never remain silent or never accept any justification for such acts".

Only a handful of signatories hail from the European People's Party (EPP), currently the largest political group in the EU parliament.

Of the 369 MEP-candidates that had signed the pledge by Monday (20 May), only 12 were from a party that is a member of the EPP.

This adds up to 3.2 percent of signatories, far below the 28.6 percent of seats which the EPP currently has in the parliament.

It does, however, include some high-ranking centre-right names.

Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, committed himself to the pledge last February - but so far no other members of his Forza Italia party have followed suit.

Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP and the party's candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, signed three months ago.

But Weber is the only member of his Christian Social Union (CSU) to have signed the pledge since.

From its sister party, Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of chancellor Angela Merkel, not a single name is on the list - at least not yet.

Candidates can still sign up, and one reason why they have not done so could also be that they had not been aware of it.

On the other hand, both Weber and the official EPP account on Twitter republished a photo of Weber signing the pledge already back in February.

The most active signatories are candidates for the Greens, making up 108 of the 369 names - followed by centre-left candidates associated with the Socialists & Democrats group, who are 85. The far-left parties that are affiliated with the GUE/NGL group make up 58 of the names.

Some 13 candidates for Liberal parties are among the signatories, outnumbered by 32 candidates for the new Diem25 movement, and 17 Pirate Party candidates.

The only eurosceptic candidates to have signed the pledge belong to the Italian Five Star Movement - which is more left-leaning than most other anti-EU parties - and six Belgian candidates that are part of Steve Bannon's The Movement.

Caveats

It should be said that looking at the pledge signatories alone does provide a skewed picture.

The make-up of the pledge list is unlikely to be accurately representative of the next European Parliament. Many of the candidates who signed will not be elected.

For example, 19 people who signed the pledge are a candidate for the Left Bloc in Portugal. But that far-left party currently has just one MEP, Marisa Matias, with the most optimistic polls projecting the party will win three seats.

Also, while 21 candidates from Luxembourg signed the pledge, the small EU member has only six seats in the EU parliament.

The left-leaning political affiliation of the majority of pledgers does however match previous voting patterns in the European Parliament, where centre-right and right-wing MEPs have in the past opposed measures to tackle sexual harassment among EU parliament staff.

However, the difference between pledging something and actually doing it, is a feature applying across the political spectrum.

The election pledge includes a promise from MEPs to enrol in a training about how to recognise and tackle harassment, and to push for that training to become mandatory for MEPs and staff.

Such a mandatory training has received support from a majority of MEPs in actual votes, most recently in January 2019.

In a text about gender mainstreaming in the EU parliament, 362 MEPs explicitly supported a mandatory training.

However, according to minutes from a parliamentary body on internal affairs, only 44 MEPs - of 751 - have participated in the voluntary training that has been available to them since November 2018.

The minutes also said that the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, would seek legal advice whether an anti-harassment training can be made mandatory at all.

Some MEPs argue that because parliamentarians are elected with a 'free and independent mandate', they cannot be forced to take such courses.

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