Saturday

23rd Oct 2021

Women should fill two EU top jobs, Tusk says

Women should take up two of the EU's top jobs in future, EU Council president Donald Tusk has said, in what would help end decades of inequality.

"Gender balance means at least two women. Whether this is possible - we will see, but it is my plan and my personal ambition and I felt very strong support from almost everyone in this aspect," Tusk said in Brussels on Tuesday (28 May) after a summit dedicated to EU appointments.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • EU Council president Donald Tusk (l) with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (c) in Brussels on Tuesday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

He did not give more detail, but the biggest jobs in the EU capital are European Commission president, EU Council president, European Parliament (EP) president, and EU foreign relations chief.

Tusk also warned that gender balance was just one of four appointment criteria, including also "geography, the size of [EU] countries ... as well as political affiliation".

If Tusk fulfilled his "personal ambition" on gender it would help to redress a historical imbalance.

There has never been a female EU commission or EU Council head - though the council post has existed for just 10 years.

There have been only two female EP presidents - Nicole Fontaine and Simone Veil.

The foreign relations post, which is also 10-years old, has belonged to women - Catherine Ashton and Federica Mogherini - however.

Man's world

In an irony, Tusk said he would chair a new panel of six EU leaders to negotiate the appointments, but all six of them were men.

There are a handful of female candidates in the running for the EU commission presidency - Danish liberal EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, French International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, and Bulgarian World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

Vestager's liberals did well in the EP elections, winning 48 extra seats to become the third largest group after the centre-right and centre-left ones.

But her appointment would fly in the face of the Spitzkenkandidaten system - the EU rule that the biggest group gets the pick for their 'lead candidate'.

Lithuania's Grybauskaite would be controversial due to her hawkish rhetoric on Russia. Lagarde and Georgieva are outliers in a field dominated by men.

The imbalance is also on show at lower levels in the EU hierarchies.

Women made up 36 percent of MEPs in 2018, but the figure was much lower in individual countries, such as Cyprus and Estonia (17 percent each).

Figures for the number of female MEPs elected last week have not been published yet.

At least six countries were on track to produce more low numbers, with the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, and Slovakia fielding fewer than 30 percent female candidates.

But the trend in the EP is towards a better balance.

The 36 percent figure for female MEPs in 2018 compares to just 16 percent in 1979, when EU elections began.

The last EP had five female vice-presidents out of 14 compared to three in the previous term. The number of female committee chairs rose to 12 out of 24 compared to eight.

Meanwhile, other individual countries painted a different picture to the Czech Republic or Hungary, with women making up 77 percent of Finnish MEPs the last time round, for instance.

Four of the largest EU countries - France, Italy, Poland, Spain - as well as Slovenia also fielded some 50 percent female candidates in last week's EP vote in a more egalitarian spirit.

The 2019 Finland figure was not yet available.

ECB post

The presidency of the European Central Bank (ECB) is also in the basket in the Tusk-led jobs talks.

The bank, which was created in 1998, has never had a female chief and there are few women candidates to pick from.

There used to be one female central bank chief in the 19-country eurozone, Cyprus' Chrystalla Georghadji, but she was replaced by a man in March.

The ECB has just one woman on its 25-member governing council and a handful of women on its supervisory board, but when it recently published vacancies for three senior posts, it had to extend the deadline because so few women applied.

Magazine

The gender gap at EU elections

Proportionally, more men vote in the European elections than women - in a trend that has widened since 2009. Yet the European parliament's outreach strategy to voters targets only young people, students and "people who exert a certain influence".

Europeans still blaming women for rape

One in four Europeans think rape can be justified in certain circumstances, while one in five say violence against women is often provoked by the victim.

EU six hold informal dinner on top jobs

Six EU leaders representing the three most-successful political blocs in the EU elections last month are meeting in Brussels on Friday to start talks on Europe's top jobs.

Women hit hardest by corona economic crisis

While women are in the frontline on fighting the pandemic, they are also exposed more to the economic crisis that will follow. The pay gap could also grow. More security for flexible jobs, and investment in care work, could help.

News in Brief

  1. Russia's anti-vax campaign backfired, EU says
  2. China angered as MEPs call for Taiwan talks
  3. Emissions from La Palma volcano reach Brussels
  4. Body of eighth victim of Belarus border-crisis found in river
  5. Report: Syrian bank fiddling currency to evade EU sanctions
  6. Nato adopts plan to counter new Russian threats
  7. Alleged killer of British MP 'felt affiliated' to IS
  8. Coronavirus: Belgium returns to 'red' zone

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. EU states want more Belarus sanctions
  2. Gas price spike exposes rift at EU summit
  3. Poland vows not to give into EU 'blackmail' at summit
  4. EU vows to uphold Paris climate ambition amid scientists' fears
  5. Commissions's new migration pact still seeking 'landing zone'
  6. Europe can't ignore Chinese encroachment in Ukraine
  7. Lithuania - where 'biodiversity funding' is cutting down trees
  8. Dutch lawyers take Frontex to EU court over pushbacks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us