30th Sep 2023

MEP accused of 'disrespecting' female moderator

  • German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer (c) appeared unnerved by moderator Jean Saldanha (r) (Photo: Eurodad)
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Some 100 civil society organisations, including Transparency International EU, Oxfam and others, are demanding a wider debate on how women moderators are sometimes subject to verbal abuse by male peers.

They are also demanding a code of conduct to prevent what they say is a "systemic pattern of behaviour" by men who speak down to women during panel debates.

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All have signed a joint letter sent on Wednesday (13 July) to Jutta Urpilainen, the EU commissioner for international partnerships. Others in copy include EU Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen.

"We believe that systematic efforts on the part of EU institutions and bodies to prevent such behaviour and redress it when it occurs is long overdue," they say.

The letter is a response to a panel debate, which took place at the European Development Days (EDD) on 21 June.

They accuse German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer of "unacceptable behaviour", following concluding remarks he made to moderator Jean Saldanha, who heads the Brussels-based development NGO Eurodad.

"This was very, very explicit, the way he kind of openly attacked me as a moderator," she told EUobserver.

Saldanha tweeted a clip of the incident, which has since been viewed over 10,000 times. The full video of the event can also be seen here.

She also queries in her Tweets whether Bütikofer would have reacted the same way "if the recipient of his verbal tirade was male and white."

Asked if Saldanha had a point, Bütikofer, in an emailed statement, said no.

"Everybody who knows me understands that. It might also be helpful to listen to the complete panel debate," he said.

The panel was discussing the Global Gateway, an initiative announced by the EU last December to provide sustainable infrastructure to the global south.

Saldanha suggested that there was no new money in the proposal, which led to a sharp rebuttal from Bütikofer. He then tells her "she didn't make her homework", in what appears to be a tense moment.

Aside from getting Bütikofer to reflect on how he addresses women, Saldanha said she hopes the issue will trigger a bigger debate.

"I want this to be much more a long term reflection and conversation the Greens must have with him but more generally and even more broadly in the EU bubble," she said.

"I have heard that many women have experienced this and this is not an isolated experience and that is why I don't want this to turn only into an incident of what happened at the EDD," she said.

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