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30th Jan 2023

Margot Wallstrom fed up with EU 'reign of old men'

  • "Old men choose old men, as always," says commissioner Wallstrom (Photo: European Commission)

EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom has said she is fed up with the "reign of old men" in Brussels corridors, saying public opinion in Europe will not take lightly to the backroom scheming between EU hot-shots.

"An inner circle of male decision-makers agree behind closed doors on whom to nominate to EU top jobs," the Swedish commissioner said in an interview with Swedish daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet on Friday (8 February), the day of her 54th birthday.

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"It is incredible that only men have been mentioned in the discussions, and that it is all discussed behind the scenes, she added.

The Lisbon Treaty, due to come into effect next year, comes with two new top posts in the union: a permanent president for the council, elected for a two and a half year period; and a 'high representative for foreign affairs', or foreign minister.

The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, has been mooted as a possible candidate, as has Luxemburg's prime minister Jean Claude Juncker. Lately, there has been much speculation about whether UK former prime minister Tony Blair is interested in the job.

Formally, the decision should be taken by the European Council - the member states' governments - but Wallstrom says that a "nucleus" of male politicians in Europe are already holding informal discussions and they will then later put a decision before other member state leaders as a fait accompli.

"It is very bad for public opinion. The people see male politicians scheming behind closed doors, and that old men choose old men, as always," the commissioner said.

She did not hesitate, despite herself being a part of the EU top establishment, to call the EU "a reign of old men".

"Just look at the 'family photos' at the EU summits. It's almost all only men that are lined up. Gee, humanity consists of fifty per cent women!"

Only two out of 26 presidents of the parliament have been women, while all eleven presidents of the commission have been men. Today's commission, the most egalitarian of them all so far, has eight woman commissioners out of 27.

She says the reason that only men are suggested to head the EU's new foreign affairs department is not the lack of female competence. She mentions Irish president Mary Robinson, Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Italian politician Emma Bonino, as sound candidates.

As for herself, Margot Wallstrom said she is not interested in any high profile political missions in the future, neither in Brussels nor in domestic politics.

"No, God forbid. Enough is enough", the commissioner said, putting an end to speculation that she could become the next Swedish foreign minister should her Social Democratic party win the next election in the Nordic state.

"I know what it takes of sacrifices to always be in the spotlight. It gets harder and harder. I really do not want this anymore".

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