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14th Apr 2024

Dalli promises to unblock women on boards directive

  • 'Discrimination is a fight that needs a European response,' Helena Dalli told MEPs during her hearing (Photo: European Parliament)

Maltese European commissioner for the new equality portfolio, Helena Dalli, promised on Wednesday (2 October) an ambitious programme to fight all types of discrimination, stereotypes, and gender-related issues across Europe.

During her first 100 days, Dalli has committed to creating a proposal on pay transparency to tackle the gender pay gap and gender pension pay gap.

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In the EU, the difference between salaries for men and women is still around 16 percent and for pensions about 36 percent, which Dalli described during her three-hour hearing as "unacceptable".

Speaking to Italian member of the employment and social affairs committee Heléne Fritzon, from the Socialist & Democrats (S&D), Dalli said that "women's rights will not only be protected but enhanced" with Ursula von der Leyen's commission.

"The 21st century must be the century of women being equal," Dalli told MEPs.

Boardroom directive?

The commission elected-president Ursula von der Leyen has put equality rights "very high on the agenda," said Dalli.

Malta's first female European Commission nominee committed to unblock the women on boards directive, which has been stuck in the EU council for years.

This text addresses inequality by requiring that women should make up a minimum of 40 percent of boards in the private and public sectors.

"I will engage with member states and convince them about the value of unblocking this directive," Dalli said.

Dalli also pledged to work constructively with member states, civil society, and the institutions to achieve the accession of the Istanbul Convention - the first legally-binding instrument to combat violence against women.

This international treaty remains blocked in the EU council by Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

However, "it's hard to understand the resistance to it [Istanbul Convention] when you see the statistics," Dalli stated, pointing out that one-in-every-three women in Europe has been a victim of physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15.

During her hearing, Dalli also mentioned that gender-based violence against women costs approximately €226bn per year.

Additionally, the former minister of Malta for European affairs and equality promised to monitor closely that the directive on work-life balance is fully implemented by all member states.

This legislative procedure establishes rights for paternity leave, pay during the leave, and flexible working hours - helping to tackle women's stereotypes and improving the quality of life of millions of families across Europe, said Dalli.

One of the most important tasks of the equality portfolio is "the fight against discrimination in all its forms," said Dalli.

"Discrimination is a fight that needs a European response," she added.

The creation of the equality portfolio was a clear statement of von der Leyen, who wanted "Europe to be free of discrimination," Dalli told MEPs.

In 2008, the anti-discrimination directive was proposed by the commission as a step forward to implement the basic principle of equal treatment outside the labour market.

However, some member states questioned the need for this proposal, which was seen as conflicting with national competences on certain points.

"I want to try to understand why it is so difficult to unblock the anti-discrimination directive," said Dalli, adding that she will focus her efforts on the implementation of the directive in the next three years.

Disabilities

However, she promised MEPs that the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities will be at the heart of all her policies.

Additionally, Dalli stated that the assessment of the European disability strategy 2010-2020 is a useful starting point "to evaluate what has been done until now and what can be done better".

Responding to German MEP Katrin Langensiepen (Greens/EFA) from the employment and social affairs committee, Dalli vowed that she will use her veto to block any legislation that can create obstacles to people with disabilities.

However, the Maltese nominee stated the importance of having equality bodies in member states that work on the various types of discrimination that occurs in our society as "equality can never be taken for granted".

"I will make the fight for inclusion my personal fight," Dalli added.

Based on the women's rights and employment committees' recommendations, the conference of presidents will decide on 17 October if parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed.

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