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26th Apr 2019

MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

  • Austrian liberal MEP Angelika Mlinar wrote the draft resolution on gender mainstreaming, which called for mandatory anti-harassment training for MEPs and staff (Photo: European Parliament)

A majority of members of the European Parliament repeated their call for mandatory training for themselves and their staff to prevent harassment in the workplace, in a resolution adopted on Tuesday (15 January).

MEPs said that while there was some progress since the #Metoo scandal began in October 2017, much of their requests have not been carried out by the select group of MEPs in charge of internal affairs.

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The text adopted on Tuesday referred back to a resolution about sexual harassment and abuse that was adopted in October 2017, which asked for a set of measures via which the EU parliament could become a safer workplace.

It was parliament's response to the #Metoo scandal, which began that month after revelations of sexual harassment by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

However, several of the requests in that 2017 resolution, adopted with a majority of 580 against 10, have been ignored by the parliament body in charge of internal affairs, the so-called Bureau.

The Bureau consists of the parliament president, Antonio Tajani, and 14 vice-presidents, distributed among political groups by size (the European People's Party, the largest group, has the most Bureau members, for example).

While the Bureau has set out a "roadmap for preventive and early support measures dealing with conflict and harassment", this plan only included voluntary training for MEPs and staff - while MEPs had asked for a mandatory training.

This Bureau has also refused to make public documents related to what has been done to combat sexual harassment.

Tuesday's resolution said that the parliament "strongly regrets the slow and inadequate progress in the implementation of other crucial recommendations of parliament's [October 2017] resolution".

It repeated that there should be mandatory training, rather than a voluntary training.

A pilot voluntary training in November attracted only 19 MEPs during the first time it was given.

MEPs also repeated that they wanted the establishment of a "task-force of independent, external experts" to investigate how widespread the problem of sexual harassment in the EU parliament is, and how its two committees dealing with the issue were functioning.

They also asked for the two anti-harassment committees to be merged into one, and to make lawyers and doctors permanent members of that committee.

The final text adopted on Tuesday, which dealt with gender mainstreaming in the European Parliament in general, was adopted with 492 votes in favour, 126 votes against, and 75 abstentions.

There was also a vote about whether to include the word "mandatory" when referring to the training, with 303 MEPs supporting to take that word out.

However, 362 MEPs wanted to keep the word "mandatory".

Austrian liberal MEP Angelika Mlinar wrote the draft resolution.

"Following this clear mandate, I urge the Bureau to take immediate action in order to combat sexual harassment in our workplace, the European parliament," Mlinar said in a written statement sent to EUobserver.

Only 19 of 751 MEPs enrol for anti-harassment course

While the course is voluntary, the number of MEPs who signed up stands in stark contrast with the number of MEPs who said they supported such remedies in the wake of the #metoo movement.

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A majority of MEPs accepted signing a declaration on appropriate behaviour - but some voted against. The opposition came mostly from centre-right German and far-right French MEPs.

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