Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

Interview

New French Renew boss at odds with Macron on gender-violence

  • The newly-elected president of the Renew Europe group, French MEP Valérie Hayer, in an interview with EUobserver (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

The new head of the liberal Renew Europe group, French MEP Valérie Hayer, has distanced herself from French president Emmanuel Macron and France's position in the Council on an EU directive to combat violence against women.

The directive was first proposed on 8 March 2022 and — after four trilogues — it has been stalled at Council level.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

About 15 member states (including Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden) are currently in favour of including rape as an offence in the final text, said lead MEP Frances Fitzgerald, of the centre-right European People's Party, during a parliament committee on Wednesday (24 January).

But with two big countries, France and Germany opposed, this is not enough to secure a qualified majority — meaning the key parliamentary demand has failed.

"This is a big shame," co-rapporteur Evin Incir (Socialists & Democrats) told fellow MEPs in the committee, where both rapporteurs confirmed that member states will not agree to the inclusion of rape in the final text.

France has been one of the countries opposed to a consent-based rape legislation [ie, only 'yes' means yes], citing legal concerns about the EU's powers in criminal law.

Asked about the directive, Hayer (dressed in purple, the colour representing the fight for gender equality) and member of Macron's own Renaissance party, said it was a difficult question for her, adding that both the Renew and French positions were clear. "We [the Renew Europe group in the parliament] are in favour of this directive," she told EUobserver in an interview.

However, on the decision to exclude rape from the final text, she simply said: "We don't have the same position [as the French in the Council]".

The directive is still expected to be negotiated and adopted in a final trilogue, where leading MEPs are keen to include a review clause so that the option of including rape as an offence can be further explored in the future.

"The direction we should move on is making what we have as strong as we possibly can," Fitzgerald said.

"This is not a white paper, there are successes, but not as many as the parliament would have wanted," the socialist MEP added.

Only second-ever female leader

Earlier on Thursday, the French MEP's nomination was fully endorsed by all members of Renew Europe, making Hayer, 37, their youngest leader ever and only the second woman to lead the liberal group.

Hayer's appointment comes just two weeks after her predecessor, Stéphane Séjourné, was sworn in as France's new foreign minister — but also as opinion polls are predicting dwinding support for the party in the upcoming June European elections.

According to a recent study, Renew is expected to lose 15 seats (86), which would make it the fourth-largest force in parliament, after the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, and closely followed by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group on 85 seats.

Nevertheless, the newly-elected president says she's confident.

"I'm sure our results will be more important than the polls are saying now," Hayer told EUobserver. "We will fight against populism (...), and we'll have new colleagues from other countries".

As the current third force in the parliament, Renew decided to send a message of continuity by appointing Hayer, but also one of "hope", she told EUobserver in an interview.

"I think I'm proof that you can come from the countryside, be young, be a woman and arrive at the top positions," the Hayer said.

The last time the group was led by a woman was in the late 1980s by Simone Veil, a French lawyer and politician who was also the first woman to be president of the European parliament, back in 1979.

"It's a very important message for all young women and young people in Europe that you can have responsibility, even if you think you don't have all the chances at the beginning," she added, after almost five years as an MEP for Macron's Renaissance party.

A daughter of farmers, Hayer was a local councillor in her home region of France before joining the European parliament.

Today, the MEP is best known for her work on the EU budget and the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), but she has also been active in mobilising civil society in France, protecting the rule of law and LGBT rights.

The article has been updated

MEP Valérie Hayer to be next Renew Europe leader

French MEP Valérie Hayer has won the group's backing to become the new president of Renew Europe, EUobserver has learned, replacing France's new foreign affairs minister, Stéphane Séjourné.

'Fucking furious': MEPs urge action on gender violence

MEPs across the political spectrum united on Thursday to send a clear message: a robust directive on violence against women is needed — and the Council must unblock the negotiations before the end of the mandate.

EU's first gender-based violence law a 'big disappointment'

The EU has adopted a provisional agreement on a directive to combat violence against women, the first-ever EU rules to fight gender based violence. But it does not include rape as 'sex without consent', or a ban on forced sterilisation.

New EU social security coordination rules hit a dead end

The clock is ticking and MEPs want to agree new rules to update the EU's social security coordination, but the file has been left unfinished under 12 EU presidencies — and the Belgian presidency won't be the exception.

Opinion

For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive

The EU Commission's 2022 CSDDD proposal did not include provisions incorporating "conflict due diligence", they were added, after the Russian invasion, by the European Parliament and Council into the final directive text — for Ukraine's sake, vote for it.

Opinion

EU plan to let 17-year olds drive trucks is crazy

It's an astonishing proposition rooted in political interest rather than facts, with potentially dire consequences for all road users — especially for people who walk and cycle, warns the European Cycling Federation.

Latest News

  1. Macron on Western boots in Ukraine: What he really meant
  2. Amazon lobbyists banned from EU Parliament
  3. MEPs adopt new transparency rules for political ads
  4. EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash
  5. Memo from Munich — EU needs to reinvent democracy support
  6. For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive
  7. All of Orbán's MPs back Sweden's Nato entry
  8. India makes first objection to EU carbon levy at WTO summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us