22nd Jan 2022

Petition for women to take top EU posts

A citizen's petition has been launched to lobby for a woman to win one of the top four EU posts up for grabs next year, with such jobs normally going to a clutch of men following much closed-door bartering - between other men.

Dubbed 'Females in Front', the online petition set up by Danish socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose has set its sights on gaining 1 million signatures to use as a political pressure tool to ensure more gender balance in the jobs.

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  • The December EU summit - predominantly a gathering of males (Photo: Council of the EU)

"With 1 million signatures, we can ask the commission to take action to secure that the Union fulfils the treaty's goal of gender equality, starting with the upcoming nominations," reads the petition, referring to the forthcoming EU Lisbon Treaty, which also contains the new petitions article and creates two of the top jobs.

"I don't think that women are necessarily better for the job. But they are just as qualified as their male counterparts. With one or more women in top positions, the EU would become far more representative of its citizens," says Ms Schaldemose.

The coming months are set to see some spectacular negotiating as member states decide who should fill the posts of EU president, foreign minister, commission president and parliament president.

Past form is not that encouraging. There have been no women commission presidents in the institution's 50-year history - although this commission claims the highest number of females, with nine of the 27 commissioners being women. Just two of parliament's presidents have been women.

The bias is also apparent at national level. Of the 27 member states, just one has a woman prime minister – Germany - while 75 percent of senior ministers in the European Union are men and 25 percent women.

Only Finland has a majority of women cabinet ministers, while Spain has the same number of men and women in government.

So far, the names mentioned in various quarters for the EU jobs are only those of men – including Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, British former Prime Minister Tony Blair; Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt and Jose Manuel Barroso, current commission President.

Although speculation in Brussels about who jobs will go to has been rife for the past half year, negotiations are only expected really start after July, once France takes over the EU helm. The names are expected to be in the bag by the end of the year.

The possibility that the EU jobs may all go to men has not escaped everyone. Sweden's EU commission Margot Wallstrom pithily remarked earlier this year that she was fed up with the "reign of old men" in Brussels.

"Just look at the 'family photos' at the EU summits. It's almost all only men that are lined up. Gee, humanity consists of 50 percent women!"

But the issue does not figure top of everyone's list. Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski only yesterday (3 June) said there would be five criteria for choosing the personalities for the posts – including to which political family the person belongs and whether they come from a large or small member states.

Gender was not on the list.

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