Bring women into the College!

  
Disclaimer: all opinions in this column reflect the views of their authors’, not of EurActiv.com PLC.
Piotr Maciej Kaczyński, independent expert on EU affairs.

The newly elected European Parliament has more female MEPs than ever in its history and the days when there was just one female member of the European Council are long history. Ten female out of 28 Commissioners is just the bottom line for the new Juncker Commission as there is no way the European Parliament will accept a College packed with testosterone, argues Piotr Maciej Kaczyński.

Piotr Maciej Kaczyński is an independent expert on EU affairs.

When a few weeks ago a few Commissioners asked “How many fingers can you see” and showed two hands, the issue of gender equality hit the front pages of the European press. Why? Because the current calculations suggest that only 4 or 5 women will be “nominated” by their national governments to take the position as European Commissioner. Jean-claude Juncker also asked the governments for a wider choice and more female-nominees, so far with a limited success. Isn’t this a déjà vu?

Back five years ago José Manuel Barroso during the summer of 2009 appealed for more women on his College, and last minute changes in countries like Sweden or the Netherlands allowed him to increase the number of female Commissioners to a record 10 in the College composed of 27 members (37%). But the College & women have a rocky past. Imagine the simple fact: the first woman to sit on the College as a Commissioner was only chosen in 1989, ten years after the European Parliament’s first woman President, Simone Veil. The Delors II (1989-92) and Delors III (1993-94) Commissions had one female member, Christiane Scrivener from France. Staggering, but between 1958 and 1989 there was 0 women Commissioners in times when the European Council had a female member (Margaret Thatcher).

Since 1995, it is a different story. There were five female members of the Santer Commission (1995-1999) and one of them led the entire College to a disgraceful collapse. The following Prodi Commission (1999-2004) had also five female members until its final months in office; since 2004 there were 8 female members in his, and Barroso I Commissions. The progress continued also in 2010 with the record 10 women taking the office of a European Commissioner.

The European institutional world has changed and moved forward. The newly elected European Parliament has more female MEPs than ever in its history (37%). Days when there was just one female member of the European Council are long history. Currently leaders of Germany, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia are women. Funny, we might have more women on the European Council than the European Commission (4). Unless...

It should be so obvious to everybody. National stubbornness makes leaders sometimes so blind. There is no way the European Parliament will accept a College of Commissioners packed with testosterone. Ten fingers meaning at least ten new female Commissioners is just a bottom line; a small progress would mean there are at least 11 female Commissioners (now there are 28 Commissioners, five years ago there were 27). Should this not happen, there will be yet another political clash of the most-feminised-ever European Council and the most-feminised-ever European Parliament over the aim to have the most-feminised-ever European Commission.

In the process the basic bottom truth should never be forgotten: Commissioners, men and women, have to be competent, and independent from the governments, who just have sent them to Brussels. But this is another issue to be addressed on another occasion. 

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